Wayne Bennett eyes new job
WAYNE Bennett will not walk away from coaching at the end of next season despite revelations Jason Demetriou will take over his job at South Sydney as part of a succession plan.
Former Broncos and Cowboys assistant Demetriou is set to finally realise his dream of becoming an NRL head coach when he takes the reins at Souths for the 2022 season.
But in a stunning development, News Corp can reveal that it will not signal the end of Bennett's illustrious coaching career.
Bennett, who has coached 836 first-grade games, has no plans to retire when his current contract with the Rabbitohs expires and he will be more than interested in taking up a challenge at a rival club.
Bennett has a huge opinion of Demetriou, whom he brought to Redfern from Brisbane last year with the specific plan for him to take over as Rabbitohs head coach when Bennett's contract was up.
The Rabbitohs confirmed in a statement that Demetriou's elevation was part of succession plan was already in place from the moment he and Bennett arrived from Brisbane.
"Current assistant coach Jason Demetriou has agreed to terms on a contract extension with the South Sydney Rabbitohs with a view to succeeding Wayne Bennett as head coach of the club post the 2021 season, a plan which has been in place since coach Bennett's appointment at the club," the statement read.
"Coach Bennett is contracted to the Rabbitohs until the end of the 2021 season with Demetriou lined up to take over the head coach role for the pre-season preparations leading into season 2022."
It is the same scenario Bennett wanted to execute at the Broncos before he was sacked in sensational circumstances at the end of 2018 that triggered a coaching swap with then-Rabbitohs coach Anthony Siebold.
It is believed Demetriou's beefed-up contract to replace Bennett as head coach at Souths for 2022-23 has an option in the Rabbitohs' favour for 2024.
Bennett has been heavily involved in promoting Demetriou's career. The pair are very close and it's understood it was Bennett who pushed for Demetriou to be given the long-term contract so he could also find stability for his young family.
Demetriou is so content at Souths his wife and children, who remained in Brisbane last year, have relocated to Sydney.
Influential Rabbitohs bosses have been highly impressed with his knowledge and ability to connect with players since his arrival last year.
Bennett doesn't issue praise easily but he has a huge wrap on Demetriou, who helped the Cowboys to the 2015 premiership before linking with him at the Broncos.
The 44-year-old has had the Midas touch wherever he has gone. A former professional rugby league player in England, Demetriou helped English side Keighley Cougars win promotion.
He has also won second-tier premierships with the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup and an Intrust Super Cup title with the Northern Pride, whom he also steered to the NSW State Championship glory in 2014.
Demetriou was short-listed for the Broncos job following Bennett's sacking in 2018, only to lose out to Seibold, who ironically launched his NRL coaching career at the Rabbitohs two years ago.
Bennett, 70, is already the oldest coach in the game's history, but if his health allows it, he would see no reason why he couldn't continue doing a job he's never lost his passion for.
While no one has ever coached in the NRL at that age, across the globe, some of the biggest names in business and politics work well into their senior years.
US President Donald Trump is 73 while his two Democratic rivals for the 2020 election, Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg, are in their late 70s.
It's no secret Bennett has always kept himself in tip-top shape, lifting weights and running 5km every second day, and he has also never drank or smoked.
Bennett could easily emerge as a contender for a new Brisbane franchise and has shown he is not afraid to move clubs.
Bennett has still shown what power he wields among the playing group after orchestrating the marquee signings of Latrell Mitchell and representative Titans forward Jai Arrow.
Mitchell took considerably less money than the $1.2 million a season he was offered by the Wests Tigers, so he could be coached by Bennett. While Arrow is also believed to have taken 'unders' from what he was offered to stay at the Gold Coast.
After missing out on getting Arrow to the club for this season, many believe the Rabbitohs' pack might struggle in 2020 with the loss of Sam and George Burgess, John Sutton and Kyle Turner, but there will be huge expectation nevertheless for Bennett to go out with a bang.
LIVE stream the 2020 NRL pre-season Trials with KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >