As time goes on the whispers are getting louder that Wayne Bennett will head back to the St George/Illawarra Dragons and coach them for a second time in 2015.
Bennett has a lot of options to consider when it comes to his coaching future. Some have even suggested that Bennett may look to move into an administrative role with a club from next season.
The Dragons, who are currently under the reigns of caretaker coach Paul McGregor, really need a coach that can come in and stamp their authority on the club. Someone who can rebuild the playing ranks and who will be able to give the club some stability as they look to build towards a winning future.
So, is Wayne Bennett the coach to get the job done?
When Wayne Bennett left the Brisbane Broncos he left behind a playing roster that needed rebuilt. The Broncos were simply old, and the days of bringing through youngster who performed at a high level were long gone. It was left to the coach that took over from him, Ivan Henjak, to go through the hard work of giving younger players a run. Many of those younger players he brought into the side are still performing well at the Broncos to this day.
Bennett coached the Dragons to an NRL title in 2010. He left the club after the 2011 season and I think it is fair to say he didn’t leave the team in the best of situations.
When Steve Price stepped into the Dragons coaching role he had a full rebuild of the club on his hands. He did his best, but it wasn’t good enough, and he found himself sacked earlier this season.
Bennett took over the Newcastle Knights in 2012. The Knights only managed to finish 12th in his first season, but Bennett went on a big recruiting drive that targeted a lot of senior players to join the club. As the highest paid coach in the game it was easy to understand why Bennett was interested in pursuing a “win now” attitude.
In 2013 the Knights finished in 7th place and made a surprising finals run, losing in the semi finals to the eventual champions the Sydney Roosters.
The Knights 2014 season has been nothing short of a disaster. On the field and off the field the Knights have a number of issues. They now face losing Wayne Bennett to another club, and it is hard to see why Bennett would stick around when he can earn more money elsewhere.
What worries me is that the current Newcastle Knights team needs a major rebuild of its playing roster. If Wayne Bennett leaves he will be leaving behind a club that will be years away from being true contenders once again. It is a common theme and one that can not be ignored.
Many believe that Wayne Bennett will weigh up staying at the Knights (Unlikely), heading back to the St George/Illawarra Dragons on big money (Firming), or heading back to the Brisbane Broncos, possibly in the capacity of coaching coordinator.
Should the last option prove to be the winner I would not be surprised at all if we see Darren Lockyer coaching the Broncos under the watchful eye of Wayne Bennett.
I think the St George/Illawarra Dragons should be looking at their longer term future rather than a quick fix. While I have no doubt that Wayne Bennett could step in and improve the Dragons, they know he won’t be sticking around for too many more years. They know how hard it has been to try and rebuild the team since Bennett left, and I question whether they want to go through that process all over again when Bennett leaves the club for a second time.
If they could sign Bennett as a coaching coordinator and have a younger coach under him that would have an eye on long term success, that to me seems like the ideal situation for the Dragons. However you would have to question the amount of money that would cost the club. They would effectively be paying two first grade coaches.
It is a very tough decision for the Dragons to make. With very few quality coaches out there and available, you can understand why the club would be willing to just get Wayne Bennett on board and not have to worry if they have someone capable of leading the club to a premiership.
Short term success versus long term success. It is pretty ironic that longest serving coach at one club in the games history at the Brisbane Broncos is now seen as a short term gun for hire.