Bennett’s ‘big stuff you’ to Broncos
BRONCOS coach Wayne Bennett wants to give the Broncos "a big stuff you" after the club's decision to knock back his request for a one-year contract extension through to the end of 2020.
Broncos great and Bennett's son-in-law Ben Ikin revealed on Tuesday that there was "every chance it ends sourly" between the Broncos and Bennett after six premierships and 15 seasons together.
It came after Panthers supremo Phil Gould moved to squash his club's reported interest in Bennett, but left the door very much open for the 68-year-old to make a blockbuster move to the Panthers next year.
On Monday night, Gould declared he had not had any contact with Bennett or Bennett's agent since they rubbed shoulders at the 2018 Immortals induction evening two weeks ago.
He told Nine's 100% Footy it was "ridiculous" that his club had been linked as a possible destination for Bennett from next year following reports the master coach had instructed his manager to explore his options at the end of this year.
It was revealed on Monday the Broncos board had knocked back Bennett's request for a one-season extension through to the end of the 2020 season.
The club's directors will also meet in October to discuss Bennett's immediate future and the option of sacking the club legend on the spot at the end of this season.
Ikin told SEN Breakfast on Tuesday that Bennett could extract his revenge on the Broncos for his potential, unceremonious exit from the club by moving to the Panthers and winning a grand final with a squad many believed was entering a premiership window.
"Wayne Bennett wants to give a big stuff you to the Broncos," the host of Fox League's NRL 360 said.
"If they're not going to extend him and he wants two more years and they won't give it to him, then he could jump to Penrith. He could get his two-year deal.
"He could work with Phil Gould - the two great minds coming together.
"They don't need to build anything long-term. That Panthers list is ready-made to win a comp.
"Bennett arrives, gets his two years. Gould does all that other stuff around coaching and together they do their best to win a comp for Penrith and they get to say to the world, 'Look at us. Look what we did.'"
Ikin said the famous Bennett-Broncos relationship appeared destined to end poorly.
"The sense I get is that the Broncos and Wayne Bennett are on very different pages at the moment," he said.
"He (Bennett) was adamant that he wants to continue coaching. He wanted that extension to 2020.
"And (chairman) Karl Morris and (chief executive) Paul White have been very strong in saying, 'You are getting nothing beyond 2019.' To the point now that, because Wayne called them on it publicly, I think they're going to make a decision on whether or not they actually allow him to see out his contract next year.
"If the Broncos don't improve over the next month then there is every chance that they part company.
"It's been a wonderful working relationship, Wayne Bennett and the Broncos, but there's every chance it ends sourly."
The uncertainty around Bennett's future grew after Gould made the shock decision last week to sack coach Anthony Griffin following Panthers chairman Dave O'Neill's approach to Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary.
Cleary has since said he intends to honour the final two years of contract with the Tigers.
With promoted assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo given an assurance of keeping his position as head coach through to only the end of 2018, reports have linked the perfect alignment of Bennett moving to Penrith at the end of this season.
On Monday, Panthers legend Mark Geyer declared his support for Bennett moving to coach the club for the next two years.
On the same day, Gould tried to shut that down.
"I haven't heard from Wayne Bennett and I haven't heard from anyone associated with Wayne Bennett so it's ridiculous to even talk about that being an option," Gould said.
"I don't know what Wayne is doing.
"I don't know if he will be at the Broncos next year but I'm sure if Wayne is not there, he's got a plan. But he certainly hasn't told me what his plan is and I've had no contact with him, other than at the Immortals the other night."
Gould did not at any point rule out the possibility of Bennett moving to the Panthers.
Despite Gould's status as club supremo clashing violently with Bennett's preference to be the undisputed figure of power at his football club, the Penrith supremo said he would be prepared to work in partnership with Bennett.
"I could work with anyone, whether he could work with me I don't know." Gould said.
Australian Kangaroos coach and the game's newest Immortal, Mal Meninga, declared on Tuesday it was highly unlikely Bennett and Gould could work harmoniously together.
He said an NRL club was more than likely too small a place to accommodate two of the biggest figures in the league.
Meninga's scepticism surrounding Bennett's ability to work under Gould came after the Panthers supremo was linked with a shock move to St George Illawarra to replace veteran chief executive Peter Doust, who is stepping down at the end of the season.
Meninga said if Gould did headhunt Bennett it would likely be one of his final acts at the Panthers.
"They're both big personalities and they're both people who tend to get their way, so perhaps not," Meninga told NRL.com when asked if Bennett and Gould could work together.
"If Wayne for example goes to Penrith, then Phil moves on. He's done his bit for the club.
"He moves on to some other place. He's pretty well settled in the media so he doesn't really need to have control of any club. I think one of those two guys would be enough for one club."