Bennett coy on future ahead of NRL start

Pamela Whaley
Legendary NRL coach Wayne Bennett is unsure of what the future holds beyond the end of next season

Wayne Bennett will start his 34th NRL season as a coach in uncertainty on Saturday night, admitting he doesn't know what his career holds beyond the end of next year.

Last month South Sydney announced a succession plan to appoint assistant Jason Demetriou to head coach in 2022, leaving Bennett to contemplate his future.

Heading into Saturday night's clash with Cronulla, Bennett said while he approved of Souths' plans to promote Demetriou at the end of next season, he doesn't know what it means for his own career.

"If I still want to coach, then I will coach and if I don't, well I'll fade into the abyss," he said, also laughing off speculation he's eyeing off a return to St George Illawarra.

"It's only the start of the season, I could be at five other clubs halfway through the year," he said.

"I've talked to no other clubs, nothing has happened, I don't intend to do any of that, I just want to get through the season and I'll worry about it next year."

Bennett's future will be one of the biggest talking points throughout the NRL season which starts for the Rabbitohs on Saturday against the Sharks at ANZ Stadium.

Despite recruiting last season's most prolific pointscorer Latrell Mitchell, Souths have lost big game experience up front with Sam Burgess, George Burgess and John Sutton all missing from the pack.

However, Bennett has named recently re-signed forward Liam Knight at lock for the round one clash and is confident he has a big future at the club.

"He has improved enormously, He's got a very high skill level and great mobility," Bennett said.

"We haven't seen the best of him by a long shot yet, there's a lot of things there that I like, but the thing I like about him most of all is that he's a 100 per cent type of guy."

Cronulla have also lost a significant chunk of experience from last year and are preparing for another setback with confirmation Josh Morris will be released to the Roosters after round two.

The 33-year-old has been named to play in the centres this weekend and coach John Morris expects the former NSW representative to put in his usual effort.

"He only knows one way, and that's to turn up and cross that white line," Morris said.

"All other distractions or anything else that's going through his mind will be pushed to the side. He'll be focusing on putting his best foot forward for the Sharks."

Rising Sharks forward Jack Williams has been given the nod to replace former skipper Paul Gallen at lock, while barnstorming prop Toby Rudolf will make his NRL debut from the bench.

STATS THAT MATTER

*Cronulla has the worst opening round record of the past 10 seasons, losing the past six, and nine of their past 10 season-opening games.

*South Sydney has won five of their past seven round one matches, although they have won just one of their past three matches, losing in 2017 and 2018.

*Wayne Bennett enters his 34th season as coach, easily the most in premiership history. His 42 wins against the Sharks is his most against any club.