Bennett’s future certain, destination unknown
WAYNE Bennett believes he can coach in the NRL until 2022 and insists he will not be railroaded into retirement by Broncos chief executive Paul White.
Bennett is prepared to honour his contract for next season, but there is now a genuine possibility Brisbane's only premiership coach may not finish his career at his beloved Broncos if he receives a more attractive offer from an NRL rival.
White admits his 34-year relationship with Bennett has become "strained" amid speculation over the coach's future and a disagreement over the right time to vacate the Broncos coaching throne.
It is understood White has privately urged Bennett to retire at the end of next year before staying on at the Broncos in a senior administrative role.
Bennett has told White and Broncos chairman Karl Morris he still loves coaching and sees no reason to hang up the clipboard for 2020.
Those conflicting philosophies are at the heart of Brisbane's high-level ructions.
It has now opened the door for NRL rivals to pounce, with Bennett being linked to the Dragons, the one club he would happily coach after steering the Red V to the 2010 premiership.
Bennett has strong bonds with Broncos players and he will only exit Red Hill next season if the Brisbane board sacks him or another club offers a longer-term coaching opportunity.
"There are two things I'm clear on," Bennett said.
"One is that I'll coach the Broncos in 2019 and the other is that I will continue to coach.
"If it's not at the Broncos, it will be somewhere else in the NRL."
While Brisbane's board have rejected Bennett's request for a 12-month extension for 2020, the supercoach viewed his one-year proposal as a compromise with the club.
Bennett believes he has the passion and energy to coach in the NRL for another four years, by which time he would be 72.
In his mind, Bennett didn't expect Brisbane to agree to a three-year extension, so he asked for one more year before stepping aside for a fresh face in 2021.
But the reluctance of Brisbane's hierarchy to buy into Bennett's vision has put the parties on a messy collision course which could force the NRL's greatest coach out of Red Hill before his time.
Asked if he suggested Bennett retire next year, White said: "It would be totally unprofessional if I went and discussed matters of a private nature in a public forum."
Asked if his relationship with Bennett is strained after the coach snubbed a team BBQ at White's house last Friday week, the CEO said: "Absolutely, in any long-term friendships you go through tough times.
"I know the headlines were 'Cold War' and I don't want to be involved in one of those.
"I've known Wayne 34 years, he's been a wonderful friend of mine and been a big influence on my life. I don't want to burn a friendship that has been there for a period of time.
"The only thing Wayne has said to me is always be honest. I am being honest with Wayne and we will be able to move on. We are very professional in terms of our relationship. He has a job to do. I have a job to do and we are here to serve the club.
"I don't want to burn a friendship but equally I don't want to not do my job."
Broncos legend Petero Civoniceva believes a premiership victory this season could save Bennett and clinch the 12-month extension he seeks.
"A lot will hinge on how the Broncos finish this season," he said.
"If they go all the way this year, it will be hard to move Wayne on, you wouldn't get a better endorsement in prolonging his career at the Broncos than a premiership.
"There's a decision that has to be made and I have confidence in the Broncos board to get it right."