The expansion battle has exploded with Wayne Bennett on the radar of rival Jets and Firehawks in an upcoming $ 1 million showdown to bring the super coach home and lead Brisbane’s second team.
The NRL will formally call for expressions of interest on Friday, and the expansion race has started on a bang, with Bennett making contact with the Firehawks and Jets in a three-way battle with the Dolphins to become the 17th team in the Code.
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Firehawks Offer Power broker Shane Richardson – the man who lured Bennett to Souths in 2019 – flew to Sydney last month to inspect the Rabbitohs setup but insists that with the 71-year-olds no deal has been reached as they are also considering Queensland coach Paul Green.
The Jets first reached out to Bennett in February and have a $ 1 million budget to sign the Coaching Icon to mentor their foundation in the event that they are licensed as the second team from Brisbane in 2023.
Speaking exclusively to News Corp, Richardson confirmed that he had caught up with Bennett recently, but stressed that the Firehawks are keeping all options open as they create a hit list of coaches to enter the NRL.
“We went to Souths a couple of weeks ago and caught up with Wayne,” he said.
“We talked, but he was one of several people in South Sydney we spoke to that day to put our offer together.
“I have a story with Wayne and I was involved in getting him to Souths but there was no offer and there are a number of coaches we are looking for for the job.
“We talked about which coaches are an option and of course Wayne is an option, but so is Paul Green, who actually played for the Easts Tigers.
“There weren’t any formal discussions but we need to appoint a coach as soon as possible as you can’t sign players without potential recruits knowing who the coach is.”
Bennett declined to comment on the expansion struggle, but the Souths mentor told News Corp last month that he was “open to all offers” as he prepares to return to Queensland in November.
As Bennett is focused on winning a premiere at Souths, his future will become clearer over the next eight weeks.
The ARL commission will finally call for expansion in July. If a second Brisbane team is stamped as expected, the Jets, Firehawks and Dolphins will hire a coach before the 2021 Premier League closes.
Bennett was born and raised in Ipswich’s area of the western corridor. The Jets are armed with a $ 1 million checkbook to lure the NRL’s greatest coach back to his roots.
“We have already had talks with Wayne and there would be a number of players who would follow him if he came to Brisbane for a new team,” said Jets spokesman Nick Livermore.
“Wayne Bennett would be the perfect candidate to help drive the creation of a second Brisbane team.
“Wayne doesn’t go cheap, we understand, but we have a budget in place if we win the license and he’s interested in joining us.
“Wayne is a proven winner. He’s a Western Corridor product. He was born in the region and has real estate in the region, so the synergies between the Jets and Wayne are a perfect match.
“It’s our priority, but our ultimate goal now is to show the NRL that there is only one choice when it comes to choosing the 17th team.”
The three potential NRL teams have a month starting Friday to submit their bids, and Richardson is excited about the showdown with the Jets and Dolphins.
“I’ve always had the feeling that this expansion strategy is real, and now it’s no longer about ego, but about quality offers.
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