Off the Wall

There are a couple of current NRL coaches who must be getting wholly sick and tired of the continuing speculation about Wayne Bennett's coaching future.

The Rabbitohs John Lang won't be worried, because he knows this is his last season, but you have to feel for the Knights Rick Stone and even for the Broncos Anthony Griffin who have to deal with constant media enquiries and speculation about their future - and Wayne Bennett's future!

And the Dragons officials, and players, can't be pleased with the speculation either. If Bennett does decide to leave the Dragons at the end of the season, they will need to begin the replacement process without delay.

The speculation about Bennett's future is inevitable, but it needs to be put to rest as soon as possible. He cannot be comfortable with it, even though his disdain for sections of the media is well known.

I hear diverse views on what he might do, and I myself have not the slightest idea what he will do.

It may be that he is waiting for tonight's Newcastle Knights members vote on the takeover offer from Nathan Tinkler. If Tinkler succeeds - and is there really any other option - then he will target Bennett, who has a long history of associating with successful businessmen, such as the late Ken Talbot.

If you listen to anyone associated with the Brisbane Broncos you would think a return to the Broncos is a done deal. The one obstacle may be News Limited's ownership of the club. Countering that is the fact there have been substantial changes in the Broncos management since he left three seasons ago - a new Chairman, and significantly, a new CEO who is a long time Bennett associate.

Bennett retains a close friendship with the Broncos captain, Darren Lockyer. A return to Brisbane would enable Bennett to directly guide Lockyer down his chosen career path - coaching an NRL club.

The only other widely discussed option is the Rabbitohs. Clearly that would provide Bennett with the smoothest shift - with John Lang leaving at the end of the season in whatever event.

And the results after the first three rounds (with one game tonight) have already added to speculation about the futures of a couple of coaches, notably the Panthers Matthew Elliott. I doubt if Bennett would see the Panthers as an attractive option.

The one significant aspect of Bennett's decision which has been somewhat overlooked is that his next coaching position is likely to be his last.

That means he will be very careful about the choice he makes.

I suspect Bennett views his place in the history of the game more importantly than he has revealed. His record entitles him to be regarded as the greatest coach of all time, and if not the greatest, then second only to Jack Gibson.

Coaching a third club to a premiership would not only be enticing - it would surely seal his pre-eminent place in the game's history.

If that is a factor, then the "return to the Broncos" theory might not be as close to the mark as some commentators believe.

Whatever happens - Wayne, please make your call as soon as possible, for your own good and that of the game.

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