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Not the retiring type: Bennett still defying the odds but unsigned for 2025 - his eight most likely and unlikely options

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5th April, 2024

The Dolphins are off to a surprisingly good start for the second year in a row in what will possibly be Wayne Bennett’s last season as an NRL coach. 

They entered the big league last year with a succession plan in place for Kristian Woolf to take over the reins in 2025 after Bennett guides them in their first two seasons. 

It was his idea to be at the helm for only the first couple of seasons before sending the Woolf in for his first head coaching assignment in the NRL. 

But the lingering question in coaching circles is where the wily old silver fox will end up next? 

At 74, he’s at an age where most people are already a long time retired but the record-breaking mentor not only has shown no sign of slowing up, he’s openly stating that he is on the lookout for his next opportunity. 

It’s a sign of his durability and insatiable enthusiasm for that odd old pastime known as rugby league that he is still plugging away when he could have easily put his feet up and retired from the fortunes he’s made from consistently being one of the sport’s highest-paid coaches, if not the highest, for the majority of his time in the premiership since he started out with Canberra in 1987. 

Heading into Saturday night’s unexpectedly intriguing match-up between his competition-leading Dolphins and the rejuvenated Wests Tigers under Benji Marshall, the rumour mill is already kicking into overdrive about where Bennett will end up next. 


He was linked to a possible return to the NZRL in the off-season but the Kiwis have put their faith in Stacey Jones to guide them to the next World Cup. 

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 05: Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett with players after the round one NRL match between the Dolphins and Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on March 05, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett with fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

There are no vacancies in the NRL, not yet anyway, for 2025 but that hasn’t stopped speculation mounting about Bennett’s landing spot. 

Here are the likely, and perhaps unlikely, scenarios for Bennett next year. 


Naaah. He won’t go quietly into the night. Even if he has to take a year off like he did in 2022 when he was getting the Dolphins ready for the entrance into the NRL, he won’t willingly call it quits until he can go out on his own terms. 

South Sydney


He already poured cold water on this possibility last week when asked about his former protege Jason Demetriou’s current struggles: “I don’t want to talk about South Sydney. I’ve left South Sydney. It has got nothing to do with me. They’ve got a coach.”

They do indeed have a coach for now, who is under contract for two more years after this one. Stranger things have happened though and if Demetriou can’t take his star-studded roster to the finals for a second straight year, patience will be wearing thin at Redfern. 

Wayne Bennett

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Sam Burgess has been touted as a potential coaching option down the track and with his close alliance to Bennett, it is not beyond the realms of possibility for Bennett to return to the Rabbitohs with the former English forward as his next succession plan beneficiary. 


Another club that has also already been forced to fend off speculation that Bennett could be coming to the Blue & Gold fold. 

Brad Arthur is having his 11th crack at breaking Parramatta’s premiership drought of biblical proportions. At some point, Eels powerbrokers will decide it’s time to move on. 


They had discussions about making a play for Bennett when his second stint at the Broncos was coming to a turbulent end late in 2018 but stuck by Arthur despite a disastrous wooden spoon season, one of only two losing campaigns during his decade in charge.

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Back to where it all started in 1987, at least in the NSWRL/NRL premiership after cutting his coaching teeth in the Brisbane club ranks. 

Ricky Stuart, like Arthur, has been at the helm for a decade with one Grand Final appearance to show for his efforts. 

The Green Machine is rebuilding and even if they were to punt a club legend in Stuart, it would be hard to see Bennett linking with a team that is a long way off title contention … unless he doesn’t have another offer.



Very unlikely but if this turns out to be Craig Bellamy’s final year in Melbourne before sealing his continually delayed retirement, the club could see the current roster as one that is a chance of a premiership but in need of an experienced coach to get them to glory. 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 28: Brisbane Broncos Coach Wayne Bennett and Melbourne Storm Coach Craig Bellamy talk to each other during the NRL Captains Grand Final Breakfast at the Westin Hotel September 28, 2006 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy before the 2006 NRL Grand Final. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


And if the Storm decided Billy Slater, and not assistant Jason Ryles, was the best candidate to replace Bellamy, there could be an opening at Origin level. 

Bennett has already had four stints as Maroons mentor but only one series over the past two decades – it might be a nice way to put a cap on his coaching career by leading Queensland to even more glory.


Adam O’Brien looks safe enough for now and after the way in which Bennett left Newcastle’s roster in ruins after his three-year stint a decade ago, you wouldn’t be wagering anything significant on a return to the Knights. 


Expansion team

This is probably the most likely option. The ARL Commission has itchy fingers when it comes to ushering in an 18th franchise and despite plenty of reasons why a Carins-based PNG side is a dud idea, it looks to be the frontrunner. 

Bennett, whose brother Bob coached the Kumuls from 1996-2005, is revered in PNG and after his success at overcoming the odds with the Dolphins, his knowledge will be invaluable to this franchise or whichever other team gets the green light to prepare for a likely entry in 2026.