Wayne Bennett, at 74, signs a 3-year deal to coach at the NRL's South Sydney Rabbitohs

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The 74-year-old Wayne Bennett has ended speculation about his coaching future beyond the 2024 season with NRL newcomer Dolphins by signing a three-year deal to return to South Sydney.

Bennett is one of the most successful coaches in rugby league and in sports in general in Australia.

He has had success with six National Rugby League clubs, winning seven premierships and overseeing more than 900 games. He guided Queensland to State-of-Origin series success and also coached Australia, New Zealand and England at international level.

Bennett said he had unfinished business at South Sydney, where he guided the team to a grand final and two other playoff series between 2019-2021.

“I am going back to Souths for three years,” Bennett told Australian Associated Press on Tuesday. "I like the people there and I like the club and what it stands for.

"I know a number of the players. There is some good talent there and we can do something. I just want to get back there."

The Rabbitohs are languishing in last place in the 17-team NRL with one win from 10 games. Bennett's Dolphins are currently in fourth spot with seven wins despite a heavy injury toll.

Bennett played two games for Australia as an outside back before embarking on a coaching career with the police academy in Queensland state and then clubs in and around the state capital, Brisbane.

He moved into Australia’s top-flight in 1987 and helped the Canberra Raiders to the grand final that year.

He was the foundation coach at the Brisbane Broncos in 1988 and won six premierships there until 2008. He then led St. George-Illawarra to a premiership in 2010 before a three-year stint at Newcastle Knights, followed by a four-year return to Brisbane, which included a run to the 2015 grand final.

After three years at South Sydney, co-owned by actor Russell Crowe, Bennett became the foundation coach at the Dolphins, based in Redcliffe north of Brisbane, on a contact for 2023 and '24. There was speculation that would be his last stint as a head coach.

Bennett never ruled out another contract and was linked last week with Souths.

“We look forward to welcoming Wayne back to the club," Rabbitohs chairman Nick Pappas said, "and to finishing off what we got so close to achieving in 2021.”


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