'Not a good day': Wayne Bennett's gaffe in frosty press exchange

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Wayne Bennett played coy on the subject of his coaching future when asked after the NRL grand final, preferring to let the result sink in before making any decisions. Picture: Fox League
Wayne Bennett played coy on the subject of his coaching future when asked after the NRL grand final, preferring to let the result sink in before making any decisions. Picture: Fox League

Wayne Bennett has long been one of the trickier NRL coaches to deal with in a post-match press conference - let alone after a narrow grand final loss.

The South Sydney coach was devastated after the Rabbitoh's 14-12 grand final loss to Penrith on Sunday night, which left the 71-year-old's future with the club in doubt.

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Bennett's contract with the Rabbitohs is up with the 2021 season now concluded, and what he thought was an early question about the heartbreak of losing what could potentially be his last game earned a swift rebuke.

Cutting off a journalist's question about a 'fairytale ending', Bennett said he was not ready to give up the ghost just yet.

“I wasn’t looking for a fairytale ending,” Bennett said. 

“I’m not finished yet, I’ve not told anyone I’ve retired from coaching.”

However the veteran coach swiftly apologised to the reporter after she explained her question had actually been about Adam Reynolds, the Rabbitohs great who will switch to the Brisbane Broncos next season after he and the Rabbitohs couldn't reach an agreement for 2022.

Despite the frosty press conference moment, Bennett's coaching future will undoubtedly be a subject of heavy speculation in the coming weeks.

Bennett, who could potentially leave the Rabbitohs having not won the premiership he was hired to win, said he would need some time before thinking about his future.

"I have a number of options on the table, and I just don't know what I will do right now," he said.

"Today is not a good day and tomorrow will not be a good day for the state of mind I will be in to make a decision on my future.

"I'll settle in a couple of weeks.

"I respect Souths enormously and what they have done for me.

"If they think I have done something for them they have done a lot for me as well.

"I won't do anything without talking to Souths first and foremost."

Wayne Bennett burns after NRL grand final pain

A second-straight grand final loss for Bennett followed two preliminary finals exits since joining Souths after a messy exit from Red Hill.

He said the extra-time 2015 defeat would forever sting with the chase for an eighth title - and first since 2010 with St George Illawarra - still seemingly very much alive.

"It's not far behind it," he said of the pain of Sunday's defeat compared to 2015.

"But at no stage tonight did we have that game won. We were always in it but never out of it. But in 2015 we had that game won, it hurts more."

Sunday's 14-12 loss to Penrith was Reynolds' last game after 10 years at the club he barracked as a child, the in-demand halfback squeezed out and set to be the face of Brisbane's rebuild under Kevin Walters.

As he prepares to move north, Bennett said Souths will "change a bit and there will be some challenges" for his current assistant and coach-in-waiting Jason Demetriou.

Adam Reynolds will be a difficult man to replace at South Sydney, coach Wayne Bennett says. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Adam Reynolds will be a difficult man to replace at South Sydney, coach Wayne Bennett says. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

"The big issue will be Adam and replacing him," Bennett warned.

Thrust into fullback after Latrell Mitchell's suspension, Blake Taaffe showed he could be the man to fill Reynolds' boots, while Lachlan Elias is another.

But he said 2022 recruit Milford would come in handy.

The playmaker took Bennett's Brisbane to within seconds of the 2015 title but has struggled to live up to that form ever since and was this season slowly phased out by new coach Walters.

"Anthony Milford is going there and he will play better football than he has in the past few years," Bennett said.

"But Jason will do a good job. He's been a wonderful servant to the game and me personally.

"He has been a wonderful co-coach and done a great job. He has a wonderful staff and Ben (Hornby) will be staying with him.

"Jason is an extremely competent coach so I don't think there will be many ripples at all."

With AAP

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