Wayne Bennett reportedly won’t return as coach of the Queensland Maroons to focus solely on the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2021.
The 71-year-old stepped in as the Maroons coach last year shortly after Kevin Walters accepted a role with the Brisbane Broncos.
The last-minute SOS paid dividends, with Bennett leading Queensland to a 2-1 victory over the New South Wales Blues in the 2020 State of Origin series.
But as revealed by NRL.com reporter Dan Walsh, Bennett told Queensland Rugby League he would not continue serving as Maroons coach in 2021.
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“A week or so after Origin, Wayne indicated that he wanted to focus on the Rabbitohs,” QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher told NRL.com.
“He said straight away that he’s always ready to help, and people that think he’s lost his enthusiasm don’t know him.
“But he was very grateful to the Rabbitohs for giving him the opportunity last year and now he wants to focus on 2021 and giving it a big shake this year.”
The Rabbitohs placed seventh on the 2020 NRL ladder, but were knocked out by the Penrith Panthers in the preliminary final.
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Bennett had four stints as Queensland coach after taking on the role for the first time in 1986, boasting a commendable record of 13 wins and 10 defeats.
According to the report, former North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green is a leading contender to replace Bennett, who is entering the final season of his three-season contract with the Rabbitohs.
Green stepped down as coach of the Cowboys following an underwhelming start to the 2020 premiership.
“Obviously the standout at the moment is Paul Green because he’s fully credentialed,” Hatcher said.
“He’s won an NRL premiership, he’s been an assistant coach at another NRL premiership and he’s played Origin.
“He’s someone that will feature prominently for 2021 for sure.”
However, The Courier-Mail’s Travis Meyn reported QRL are eager for an Origin legend to take the reins if Green is picked up by an NRL club.
“With Paul Green I’m sure within a year he will have an NRL job and he expresses the view that is his priority,” Hatcher said, according to the report.
“We will go through a process because there have been players who have been exceptional at NRL level but don’t want to be a full-time coach and would throw their hat in the ring to be an Origin coach.
“The ones that come to mind are (Billy) Slater, Cameron Smith, (Justin) Hodges and those guys.”
The State of Origin series is expected to return to its traditional mid-season timeslot in 2021.