Bennett bombshell has Broncos written all over it
Wayne Bennett has revealed he is returning home to Queensland at season's end, opening the door for the South Sydney super coach to make a stunning return to help Kevin Walters rebuild the Broncos.
Bennett confirmed he has told Souths bosses he will move permanently to Brisbane when his Rabbitohs deal expires in November, despite high-level plans to deploy the NRL's greatest coach in another role at Redfern.
The 35-year association between Bennett and Walters takes another twist on Thursday night when the pair square off for the first time as head coaches in the Souths-Broncos clash at Stadium Australia.
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But there may yet be a reunification between the duo at Red Hill, with Bennett advising Rabbitohs powerbrokers of his plan to return to live in Brisbane on a full-time basis before Christmas.
Souths chief executive Blake Solly and co-owner Russell Crowe have been so impressed with Bennett's transition to Redfern following his bitter sacking at the Broncos in 2018 they are keen for the 71-year-old to march on with the Pride of the League.
But with the Broncos' hopes of snaring Melbourne's Craig Bellamy as culture boss dwindling by the week, Bennett will come home as a free agent - and declared he is open to any offer.
"Souths and myself have had some discussions around my future," Bennett said on the eve of the Souths-Brisbane showdown at Homebush.
"I am going home to live in Brisbane full-time at the end of the footy season.
"That's my plan. Souths know about my position and after that who knows what I will do.
"Souths are keen for me to stay on in some capacity.
"They have said it doesn't mean I would have to stay in Sydney to do that, but I am not making any decisions around what I will do next year until I get to Brisbane and I will sort myself out then.
"I am going to leave myself as a free agent."
Bennett's stance leaves the door ajar for the Broncos to heal deep wounds with the man who has delivered all six of Brisbane's premierships.
News Corp understands Walters is not opposed to a Bennett return, but is mindful of the political complexities following the foundation coach's toxic fallout with the Broncos board.
Bennett has no interest in undermining Walters. He believes he could act as a pressure valve to help the rookie coach in his formative NRL years, oversee Brisbane's culture and restore front-office stability following their wooden-spoon debacle under Anthony Seibold last year.
The danger for Broncos hierarchy is the formidable threat Bennett poses if he was to take charge of a rival second Brisbane team in 2023. Prospective bid teams Redcliffe and the Brisbane Jets are both eyeing off Bennett.
Asked if he would return to help Walters revive the Broncos next year, Bennett said: "I'm not going into the Broncos specifically, but I will say this ... I'm a free agent.
"I like the fact that I will be going back to Brisbane, I will reside back there and whatever comes up I will consider.
"Souths are keen for me to do something, so there is an option.
"Nothing is off the table. There is so much up in the air. I've got a number of options.
"If someone wants me in some capacity, I will make a decision."
Walters was tight-lipped about the prospect of Bennett returning to the Broncos.
"I don't want to make any comment on that. That's a double-edged sword for me," he said.
"There's no drama between me and Wayne at all.
"I could pick up the phone to him today and we'd be fine."
Rabbitohs boss Solly remains hopeful Bennett will continue his employment as South Sydney's king of Queensland.
"We don't want to lose Wayne," he said.
"Even if Wayne returns to Brisbane, we believe he can still play a role for us.
"We're aware of his desire to return home, so we have put together a job description for a role Wayne could play for us in Queensland.
"We have Shane Richardson (former Souths CEO) on a similar deal and we want to keep Wayne on in that regard. To be able to have continued dialogue with a person of Wayne's experience and knowledge is invaluable.
"We love what Wayne has brought to the club, but we will leave the decision with Wayne."
Originally published as Bennett bombshell has Broncos written all over it