Off the Wall

In an announcement that will stun many - but not the writer - Wayne Bennett will not be returning to coach the Brisbane Broncos in 2012.

In my column early this morning I warned that his return was no longer a done deal, as Brisbane's New Limited's newspapers have stated.

The Courier Mail and the Sunday Mail reported recently - without any qualification - that Bennett would be back at the Broncos in 2012, and that the retiring captain, Darren Lockyer, would be one of his understudies.

Given that News is the majority owner of the Broncos, all bets on where Bennett would go were off.

There are some media executives and sports writers who will be scraping large dollops of egg from their faces this afternoon!

The Broncos have today confirmed that they have been negotiating with Bennett until as recently as last night.

So there was some truth in the News Limited papers stories - but the assertion that he was "signed sealed and delivered" was clearly wrong. Ouch!

What may have happened - and we will probably know for sure in time - is that Bennett was none too impressed by the unqualified reports in papers sharing a common ownership with the Broncos. I alluded to that this morning.

Exactly what happened will surely emerge in time. He is now pursuing other options.

The Knights and the Rabbitohs are clearly in the race. I can see reasons why both have strong attractions.

The Knights have a new wealthy coal miner owner - one of Bennett's closest corporate advisors and backers was another coal miner, the late Ken Talbot. Bennett delivered the eulogy at his funeral.

The regional support base of the Knights would appeal to Bennett.

The Rabbitohs would appeal as they are a club steeped in rugby league history (as the Dragons are), and the club's strong indigenous links would appeal as well.

The Russell Crowe owner-presence would do no harm.

With another part of the Bennett coaching jigsaw puzzle cleared up, we can only hope he fills in the rest of the puzzle as soon as possible.

Drawing out the saga any longer is not in Wayne Bennett's interests, or that of the game.

There is one person who must be even more bewildered today - former Broncos coach Ivan Henjak.

He has made it very clear that his departure was instigated to make way for the return to Red Hill of Wayne Bennett!