Why Bennett's future remains the hot topic at Broncos headquarters

Wayne Bennett warned months ago that he was concerned speculation about his coaching future would be an unwanted distraction for the Broncos - which may explain why Josh McGuire said he would not answer questions about the issue on Monday.

"The coach and the club has asked us not to comment on that and we won't be commenting on that until the season is over,” McGuire uttered when asked if he wanted Bennett to stick around at Red Hill.

The Broncos know speculation about Bennett's future will be a story each week until a definitive decision is made on where he will be and when.

Take it as given that he won't be at the Broncos in 2020, but Bennett has been linked with the Eels, Dragons, Titans and Panthers in the last week and that speculation will only ramp up in the coming days.

The official line out the Broncos remains that Bennett is the coach in 2019 and it is business as usual until an October board meeting decides beyond that, but the genie is out of the bottle now and has been ever since it emerged Broncos CEO Paul White had sounded out Craig Bellamy about coaching at the club post-Bennett.

It is why a large chunk of Bennett's weekly pre-game press conferences are taken up with his coaching future.

Bennett took the opportunity in the post-match press conference after the 12-10 win over Cronulla to announce that an agreement had been struck with chairman Karl Morris that no further comments would be made about the coaching issue until October.

NRL.com asked an influential figure in the game who knows Bennett well whether he had been given an ultimatum by the chairman before making that announcement. The individual replied "an ultimatum and perhaps a carrot".

That "carrot" may well have been the green light to respectfully explore coaching options for 2019 and an early exit from the club.

If Bennett does not coach at Brisbane next year it would be in neither party’s interest for it to be an ugly divorce.  

The concept of Bennett coaching at Brisbane in 2019 with an axe held over his head is not one those close to him believe he will tolerate.

He coached the 2008 season at Brisbane knowing it would be his last but that was after he had sealed a deal with the St George Illawarra Dragons for the following season on his terms.

Bennett suggested he had gagged himself after the Sharks match, but that has not prevented him from being more than open when asked by media about his plans. He has certainly not shut down the conversation in the way Ivan Cleary did after the Wests Tigers' 22-20 win over the Raiders on Sunday.

Bennett has said since that he wants to coach on beyond 2019 and has also painted his relationship with Panthers supremo Phil Gould in the best possible light.  

With Penrith seeking a head coach in 2019 the “Bennett to Panthers” link has subsequently gained traction by the day.

The purpose of an October board meeting to decide a coach’s future so late in the rugby league calendar year, which ends contractually on October 31, remains a mystery if Bennett has already been told he won’t be extended.

If Bennett does coach elsewhere in 2019, it is certain any such decision will be made well before then.

While all and sundry at the Broncos are denying the coach’s uncertain future is a distraction, the nature of rugby league media in 2018 is that there is nothing anyone at the club can do to prevent it from being so.

The “distraction” is inherently there.

One thing is clear at Broncos HQ though, and that is that Bennett still has his players well and truly on side. He has not lost the dressing room in any way, shape or form. His assistants – Kurt Richards and Jason Demetriou – are also both loyal lieutenants who work in unison with him.  

Veteran forward Alex Glenn, who also said Bennett’s future would be “addressed in October”, made the point that the team was united in its quest to perform well against the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Sea Eagles in the coming three weeks as they attempt to shore up a top eight position initially and, if their form turns, a possible home final by finishing fifth or sixth.

"We are all on the same page. Wayne’s got our backs and we’ve got Wayne’s back and we are just worried about what we can produce on the field," Glenn said.

"We are not letting the outside noise creep in and interfere with our vibe and what is going on with our team. We’re all on the same page when it comes to what we want to do and being successful these next three weeks."