Corey Parker smacks down 'rubbish' claims around Wayne Bennett's NRL move to South Sydney

Bennett has been accused of taking his focus off the Dolphins after signing with Souths for 2025.

Corey Parker has smacked down suggestions from veteran league reporter Phil 'Buzz'' Rothfield that the Dolphins' NRL form slump is linked to coach Wayne Bennett's decision to re-join South Sydney next season. The master coach last month agreed a three-year deal to return to the Rabbitohs - the club that he led to two preliminary finals and a grand final during his time in charge from 2019 - 2021.

Since agreeing to return to Redfern in 2025 though, the Dolphins have lost three of their last four games and the Rabbitohs have climbed off the bottom of the ladder after winning four straight. And Rothfield is among those to question where the focus of the Dolphins coach lies, amid reports he's been chatting to Souths interim coach Ben Hornby about positional changes at the club, as well as several Rabbitohs players.

On the left is Corey Parker and Dolphins NRL coach Wayne Bennett on the right.
Corey Parker says it's 'rubbish' to link the Dolphins' NRL form slump with Wayne Bennett's decision to join the Rabbitohs from next season. Pic: Getty

“James Hooper said last week that Wayne was chatting to Ben Hornby and said move (Keaon) Koloamatangi from the edge to the middle. Latrell is on the phone to him quite often," Rothfield told Sky's Big Sports Breakfast on Monday. "I love the fact Wayne cares about those boys and he is heading there, but if this happened in a major business, and I use the example of retail... If the boss of David Jones quit and joined Myer next year, would he be planning the Boxing Day sales with the staff at the new joint? Would he be making the recruitment decisions? I’m not saying the Dolphins are gone or anything, they just aren’t winning and this game is about winning.”


Naturally, part of a coach's job revolves around planning for next season and the Rabbitohs have already started doing so. The Bunnies have agreed to let former representative hooker Damien Cook leave for the Dragons in 2025, in a move that would have been rubber-stamped by Bennett. But critics have pointed out that while Bennett diverts some of his focus onto the Rabbitohs roster for 2025, the Dolphins' form has suffered as a result.

However, Parker refuses to buy into suggestions that Bennett is not fully focused on the Dolphins' season in 2024. The former Broncos great - who was coached by Bennett during his time with Brisbane - says if any coach can balance two jobs effectively it is the most experienced mentor in the game. And Parker says Hornby deserves to be given credit for turning the fortunes around at South Sydney, following the sacking of Jason Demetriou after just one win in seven games to start the season.

“It’s a unique situation but if anyone can do unique situations in the modern game, it’s Wayne Bennett,” Parker told SENQ Mornings. “He just has that ability, his connections and what he’s done, there’d no one like a Wayne Bennett once he moves on from Souths, if he ever does.

“What he’s able to do is differentiate, yes he’s obviously helping Ben Hornby and what is happening down there at Souths but I wouldn’t think (it’s) as much as everyone may or may not think. Give Hornby and the players some credit... (but) to say that while the Dolphins are on the slide and Souths are on the rise, and Wayne is now checked out, I think that’s rubbish.”

Pictured left to right is Wayne Bennett and South Sydney players in the NRL.
Wayne Bennett has been accused of focusing too much on South Sydney for the 2025 NRL season at the expense of his Dolphins side. Pic: Getty

Parker also pointed out the Dolphins' form slump needs to be put into perspective, with their latest defeat coming in a rollercoaster thrilling against the ladder-leading Melbourne Storm, which they almost won. “The losses that they’ve (Dolphins) had, the game on the weekend against Melbourne was one of the great spectacles, against the competition leaders,” Parker added. “They went within a whisker (of winning). I’m not buying into that from Buzz, I don’t coincide with him on those opinions.”