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NRL News: Bennett seeks swift Souths resolution, Robinson says Roosters cashed up to replace Keary

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3rd May, 2024
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Wayne Bennett is keen to get his next coaching appointment wrapped up promptly as he prepares to ramp up negotiations for a South Sydney homecoming.

The 74-year-old Dolphins coach confirmed on Friday that he would speak in more detail to the Rabbitohs about replacing sacked coach Jason Demetriou after his side’s away clash with North Queensland on Saturday.

In the past Bennett has been courted by multiple clubs when off-contract. That is not the case at this point with Souths the only current vacancy in 2025 for a head coach.

While he said he was “not in a rush” he does not want his coaching future to be a distraction for his players in their finals quest.

“I told the players what was going on because I knew it doesn’t work, not talking,” he said.

“They have all come from other clubs here so they all understand. I want to get it out of the road as quick as I can so we can all move on and there no distractions.

“We will see where it goes. It could happen tomorrow. I just have to make sure I am comfortable with what I am doing and (Souths) are comfortable with me. We need to talk.”

Bennett’s wish aligns with that of Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly who said this week he hoped to get the next coach appointed “in weeks not months”.

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It has been reported that Bennett reached out via a third party to Parramatta, where head coach Brad Arthur is under pressure after an underwhelming start to the season.

“I don’t know anything about Parramatta. I don’t know where that is coming from,” Bennett said.

Bennett said his desire to stay coaching in the NRL was still strong.

“If I didn’t think I had something to offer … I wouldn’t do it. That’s not the case with me,” he said.

“I would rather be doing something and making a contribution. I care about the game enormously and its people. If I can go and help a club and make them better then that is what motivates me and drives me.

“(Coaching) gives me something to do. I don’t want to sit at home and twiddle my thumbs and bore myself to death.”

Robinson says Roosters cashed up to replace Keary

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Trent Robinson has revealed the Sydney Roosters are in the market for an experienced playmaker to replace Luke Keary, but concedes it is unlikely one will materialise.

Keary’s shock retirement announcement has thrown a spanner in the Roosters’ plans for next season, with close to 1000 games in talent now set to leave the NRL club at year’s end.

Robinson views Sam Walker and Sandon Smith as the Roosters’ long-term halves, but is mindful both are still only 21.

There is also a wealth of young halves coming through the club, including the highly touted Toby Rodwell who starred in the U19s SG Ball this season.

Robinson is willing to pair Walker and Smith next year if required, but made no secret of the Roosters’ desire to land an experienced playmaker to help the process. “That would be ideal if the player is right,” Robinson said. 

“If it’s not, then we’re not going to put someone in front of Sandon that’s not of high quality. 

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“If we think someone is really experienced and can do that (sure). But we are in May. And for next year most of the time they’re all signed. So that’s difficult. Luke was our 30-year-old to help steer the ship with Teddy. That gets thrown out a little bit as far as age.

“But we also really believe in Sandon. So if we have to go young and develop through next year, then we will.”

Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson are both off contract next year, but would be unlikely to move clubs if they play on. Ben Hunt has previously agitated for a release from St George Illawarra, but his preference has been to return to Queensland.

Robinson did rule out a play for South Sydney halfback Lachlan Ilias, who is free to negotiate but of a similar age and experience to Walker. What Robinson is confident of is Walker will remain at the Roosters long term, despite the Queensland junior being a possible target for Brisbane in 2026.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Broncos coach Kevin Walters claimed on Thursday he thought it unlikely Walker would leave the Roosters to replace Adam Reynolds in 2026, a belief Robinson also shares.

“Sam’s been quite open and we’ve been quite open,” Robinson said.  “We’ve been on a path here for four years with Sam. We’ve been very clear about him being our long-term half and developing into that. 

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“And that plan hasn’t changed for us. And as far as I know, it hasn’t changed for Sam.”

With close to $4 million free in their salary cap, Robinson said the club had recruitment targets and would not rule out a play for Broncos centre Selwyn Cobbo for 2026.

More immediately, the Roosters have lost veteran forward Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to a calf strain for Friday’s clash with Brisbane.

Winger Daniel Tupou’s return from a knee injury has been aborted, while Victor Radley will not come back this week from a hamstring complaint.

Cleary certain to return next week

Penrith have confirmed Nathan Cleary will return from his latest hamstring issue to face Canterbury in round 10.

The Panthers pulled Cleary a day out from Thursday’s victory over South Sydney despite the star halfback making it through captain’s run.

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The reigning premiers were keen to take a cautious approach to Cleary’s fitness, given he had felt some tightness in his hamstring after the round-eight away game against North Queensland.

The five-day turnaround between that clash and the meeting with Souths also influenced the call to bring Brad Schneider in to replace Cleary.

Cleary’s understudy during his initial injury lay-off, Schneider was important in the Panthers’ eventual 42-12 win.

Coach Ivan Cleary blamed himself for not making a decision to rest his son earlier in the week so as to give Schneider more time with the team.

“That’s on me, we should’ve made that call earlier,” he said. “We wanted to see how (Cleary) would go yesterday, hoping he’d get through it without any dramas.

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“In the end, it just seemed to be too much risk.

“Brad came in and had done zero reps this week, or the week before, so I think he did pretty well.”

Cleary was effusive when asked whether Nathan was expected to line up against the Bulldogs at home next Friday. “Yes,” he said.

The coach also confirmed fullback Dylan Edwards would be fit despite coming off in the final 10 minutes of the win over Souths. “Wherever I can, I try to give guys like ‘Yeoy’ (Isaah Yeo) and ‘Dyl’ a rest,” he said.

“Dyl’s always complaining about something so I gave him that tonight. Those two in particular are just absolute machines so I saw an opportunity.”

with AAP

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