Broncos playing high risk game with Bennett future
Wayne Bennett said last Friday that he was in "the risk business", a term that equally applies to the Brisbane Broncos board in their quest for a coach for 2020 and beyond.
Bennett's mention of the risks all clubs take came in response to a question about whether there was any danger in re-signing teenage prop Payne Haas for a further six years.
The Broncos are also employing a high-risk strategy in the coaching arena after Bennett's initial request for a one-year contract extension until the end of 2020 was not granted.
It is understood a final decision on the 68-year-old coach's future beyond 2019 will not be made by the board until the season ends, despite his request that it be done sooner.
How this plays out is yet to be determined. The Broncos hierarchy is in no hurry, and won't be rushed by external pressure. A seventh premiership may save Bennett, but even he admits it may not.
The great challenge for the Broncos is that they now face the prospect of a permanent post-Bennett era. When he left at the end of 2008 there was always the expectation he may return. His next exit will be final.
When Bennett was appointed Broncos coach in 1987 it was with total control over the football department and with the utmost faith from the founding four directors that he could build a successful club from the ground up.
He did that, and more. It is why the Broncos turned to Craig Bellamy as their first choice to replace him.
Bellamy has achieved similar results with the Storm and the hope was that he could continue what Bennett started in Brisbane and facilitate a seamless transition from one supercoach to another
The Broncos failure to secure Bellamy has created a vacuum in the "supercoach" market.
Brisbane fans will want to know who is available and where the Broncos may go from here if Bennett is not around beyond next year
There are six current head NRL coaches off contract at the end of 2019 – Anthony Seibold, Dean Pay, Brad Arthur, Stephen Kearney, Paul McGregor and Shane Flanagan.
Of those, the 43-year-old Seibold is understood to be the front-runner despite being in his first year as a head coach.
He is a Queenslander, he played lower grades at the Broncos, is a friend of Brisbane CEO Paul White and highly regarded.
The Rabbitohs coach said last month that because of his history he expected speculation.
Seibold's performance in turning the Rabbitohs into premiership contenders has not gone unnoticed.
NRL.com understands that no approach has been made by the Broncos to Seibold, but that is not to say there won't be one.
The Rabbitohs are aware of the possibility, but all contract negotiations beyond 2019 have been put on hold by Seibold and the club until the end of this year where you can be certain South Sydney will make it clear he is part of their long-term plans.
Shane Richardson, the club's general manager of football, told NRL.com that all he, the players and the coach were concerned about now was focussing on the next six weeks and then the finals.
There are at least two other possibilities for the Broncos post-Bennett - current assistant coach Jason Demetriou and Maroons coach Kevin Walters.
Despite Walters' exit as an assistant to Bennett earlier this year to focus on Queensland, he still aspires to coach the club where he won five premierships as a player.
He is contracted until the end of 2020 but the QRL will not stand in his way if he secures a head coaching position in the NRL.
Bennett said on Wednesday that Demetriou, who aspires to being a head coach, was more than capable of coaching Broncos in the future while outlining his credentials.
The other factor that will play out at the Brisbane Broncos is the influence of News Corporation, the majority shareholder via subsidiary Nationwide News in the publicly listed company.
News Corp have a delegate on the board in Neil Monaghan, an executive known for making tough decisions when he needs to.
When Bennett was brought back to the Broncos in 2015 it was with Lachlan Murdoch's tick of approval, although he did not orchestrate the play.
NRL.com has learned that at least one high-level News Corp executive, not on the board, was certain Bellamy was on his way to Brisbane.
After failing to secure the Storm mentor the Broncos will not want to fail again. The irony is that the two most successful coaches in the NRL are Bellamy and Bennett.
Only one of them is still available for 2020, and can be found at Broncos HQ most days. To risk missing out on the best coaches in the NRL, even for one season, is ever-present. It is one the Broncos are obviously prepared to take.
With Bennett intending to coach on beyond 2019 the other risk for Brisbane is that he takes up an offer to coach at another club, and their preferred candidate re-signs with his current club or takes up another position elsewhere.
As Bennett said himself, the Broncos are well and truly wrapped up in a risk business on all fronts.