Bennett storms out of press conference
A furious Wayne Bennett has walked out on his weekly press conference after taking umbrage with repeated questions about his coaching future.
In a NewsCorp report published on Wednesday night, Craig Bellamy was quoted saying he had not ruled out a return to Brisbane Broncos, where he was once an assistant coach, adding new fuel to the fire of months of speculation about who will take over from Bennett, and when.
The 68-year-old is contracted until the end of 2019 and has not said whether he would go on beyond that.
Bennett has made it clear he is tired of having his job questioned when he still has a year to go on his deal and when the Broncos' winning strike rate since he returned to the club in 2015 is second only to Bellamy at the Storm.
When asked whether he saw Bellamy as a possible next coach of the Broncos, he bristled.
"You had Paul Green here a month ago so now we've just moved on," Bennett said.
"We've got a great game here [against the Storm] on tomorrow night so let's talk about the footy and leave the rest to you guys to speculate. I certainly don't why to buy in to the rubbish."
Bennett was then asked whether he'd be coach Brisbane in 2019.
"Nothing is permanent and nothing is temporary, even for coaches. I've got a contract here next year," he said.
The questioning then escalated with Bennett being quizzed on whether he would be open to co-coaching with Bellamy.
"I'm not in on any of your speculation. You know more than I do … I am coach here next year as far as I know," he said, while having a dig at talk shows where pundits "make it up".
He repeated he would talk about footy only before another question emerged about how he had groomed Bellamy for the top job "once upon a time".
"I never groomed him for the job once upon a time. Guys, if you don't want to talk about the footy I'll just leave it at that," Bennett said as he walked away from the media conference.
Opinion is diverse as to who should take over when Bennett calls it a day on his stellar coaching career. NRL.com columnist and Broncos legend Steve Renouf has said Kevin Walters is the man to take the reins in 2020.
Paul Green, by re-signing with the North Queensland Cowboys until the end of 2021, is now out of the equation.
Current assistant coach Jason Demetriou has also been put forward as a potential successor.
Broncos CEO Paul White, speaking to media at the opening of the $27.2 million Clive Berghofer Centre in February, was asked by NRL.com whether he'd had negotiations with Bennett about extending his contract.
White said at the time there had been no discussions with Bennett about any succession plan.
"He's got two more years to run," White said.
"I think it is a bit premature. I speak to Wayne every day, and you've got to understand that I have known Wayne since I was 18 years old.
"He will know when the time is right [to retire]. The time is not right yet and the time is not right to have that discussion.
"This is a new season. He's full of energy. He's ready to go and I'm one hundred behind him."