WAYNE Bennett has officially declared Kevin Walters is being groomed to succeed him at Red Hill after confirming the Queensland coach will return to the Broncos next season.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Walters will be back as Bennett's right-hand man next month after the master coach rubber-stamped the move following private discussions between the pair.
The Queensland Rugby League will formally announce a two-year extension for Walters today and as part of the new deal, the Maroons coach will be given permission to work for the Broncos.
It can be revealed Walters approached Bennett last month to express his interest in returning to the Broncos.
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The Queensland coach is relishing his work with the Maroons, convincing him to sign on until the end of 2020, but is keen to ramp-up his development in an NRL system.
Walters' return to the Broncos will represent his third stint as Bennett's assistant after he was famously sacked in 2005 before returning two years ago to help Brisbane to the 2015 grand final.
It is also the most compelling sign yet Walters, one of Brisbane's favourite sons, is in contention to take over from Bennett, who will be 69 when he comes off contract at the end of 2019.
Bennett confirmed Walters will return, joining Jason Demetriou as his assistants. For the first time, he revealed his succession plan, saying Walters and Demetriou are both capable of coaching Queensland's flagship NRL club.
"It will be good to have Kevin back," Bennett said. "He approached me recently about coming back.
"He feels that coaching three games a season with Queensland is not enough and he wanted to do some more hands-on coaching in an NRL system.
"Kevvie brought a lot to us the last time he was here. He knows the game really well, he has been a long-term coach and he is one of the club's great players.
"He brings a lot that way, all his confidence and beliefs. He has a lot of belief in himself and that rubs off on the players. He is good to have around the place, he makes the club enjoyable, he did it as a player with Allan Langer."
Asked if Walters can be Brisbane's next coach, Bennett was unequivocal.
"Absolutely," he said. "I'm not going to go on forever so can Kevin be the next coach of the Broncos? Certainly he can.
"Kevvie and Jason are in the mix.
"I was really impressed with Jason this year, he did a very good job for us so I like what he brings and I like what Kevin brings.
"We've always been in pursuit of the best at the Broncos and nothing has changed there.
"Bringing Kevin on board helps us with our succession plan. Somewhere down the track, when I'm gone, hopefully he or Jason will coach the Broncos."
Walters was recently linked with the Gold Coast Titans job but cooled on the position after consulting a number of industry figures, including Bennett.
The return of Walters is a major coup for the Broncos. He is popular with Brisbane players and played a key role in the development of star five-eighth Anthony Milford, who was outstanding in 2015 tapping into Walters' playmaking know-how.
"I need to sort out his exact role," Bennett said. "I can't have Kevvie and Jason sharing the attacking structures, I don't want the players confused over how they should play. I will find a role for Kevin."
Walters said: "I love coaching Queensland and I'm grateful that I can continue on in this role as we have a lot more work to do.
"I'm also excited about the opportunity to be involved in the NRL again. I can't thank both the QRL and the Broncos enough for the opportunity."
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