Bennett in talks with Brisbane Jets for return home
Wayne Bennett is in secret talks with the Brisbane Jets as the NRL's prospective 17th team hatches plans to bring the super coach home to Queensland.
News Corp can reveal the newly-formed Jets super bid has formally contacted Bennett with a view to the former Broncos coach calling the shots if they secure a licence as Brisbane's second team in 2023.
Bennett has not signed a formal contract with the Jets at this stage with the 71-year-old keeping his options open as the Dolphins and Brisbane Firehawks also prepare to submit robust bids for an NRL licence.
But the Jets are determined not to be ambushed in the expansion battle, holding negotiations with Bennett, whose three-year contract with South Sydney expires at season's end - making him a free agent from 2022.
Brisbane Jets consortium figurehead Steve Johnson confirmed the amalgamated entity is in discussions with the NRL's greatest coach.
"I have reached out to Wayne … we've had talks," Johnson said."Wayne is still keen to coach on so, yes, we would look at him as our head coach for 2023.
"He has to talk to South Sydney about his future plans. They are keen for him to stay on in another role (after this season), but we're hoping Wayne has a desire in coming back to Queensland."
Bennett has historical links to the region, starting his coaching journey with Ipswich in 1976. The seven-time premiership winner was born in Allora in the Southern Downs region west of Brisbane and still has a farm near Warwick.
The prospect of a second Brisbane team snaring Bennett would be a dream narrative for an NRL organisation plotting another great rivalry given his explosive sacking at the Broncos in 2018.
Now Bennett could return to haunt a Broncos club that has collapsed following his departure, crashing to their first wooden spoon under Anthony Seibold last season.
"We believe we have great synergies with Wayne," Johnson said.
"A lot of people may not know this but Wayne started his coaching career in Ipswich.
"Aside from his connection to Queensland, Wayne is one of our own with the Ipswich community.
"He was born and raised in the western corridor, so if Wayne does become available to coach and we are lucky enough to win an NRL licence, we can't think of a better person than Wayne Bennett to coach the Jets.
"Hopefully, if we can clinch a licence, we can have some more meaningful dialogue."
South Sydney are sure to fight hard to keep Bennett with Rabbitohs bosses having discussed a consultancy role for 2022 and beyond.
Bennett declined to comment on talks with the Jets but told News Corp three weeks ago he was open to all offers.
"I'm contracted to Souths for this year and then after that I'm a free agent," he said.
"I've got nowhere to go (in 2022). I haven't done any deals with anyone. I haven't agreed to anything.
"There's a number of strong applicants bidding to become Brisbane's second team and they will need a coach, so I won't rule anything out."
Bennett urged Redcliffe, the Jets and Firehawks not to become obsessed with being a carbon copy of the Broncos.
"The Crushers tried to be like the Broncos when they came in and they died very quickly," Bennett said.
"What a second Brisbane team needs is a long-term plan. If they go looking for quick fixes or quick results, they will struggle.
"And the other thing is not to look over their shoulder trying to be better than the Broncos or Titans. They have to forge their own identity and not fall into the stupidity of trying to be like the Broncos.
"My No.1 priority is to get through the season with Souths. I want to finish on a good note here.
"But I know how to build teams and what makes successful clubs work.
"There is no coach in the game who has spent more time in the game at a high level than myself. I have played or coached for the past 57 years.
"I was part of setting up the Brisbane Broncos, so I know what it would take to set up a second Brisbane team."
Originally published as Bennett in talks with Brisbane Jets for return home