PM weighs in as Souths confirm Bennett link

South Sydney Rabbitohs Training Session
Wayne Bennett could return to South Sydney. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says sacked South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou put in an “extraordinary effort” as the club confirmed a conversation with master mentor Wayne Bennett will be part of the “exhaustive” process used to find his replacement.

Albanese, a long-time Souths supporter, said Tuesday would have been a “hard day” for Demetriou who was axed with two years to run on his contract and his team wallowing in last spot on the NRL table.

“He put in an extraordinary effort as coach. A decent man,” the PM said.

“It would have been a tough day for him yesterday, but I wish him all the very best”.

NRL Preliminary Final 2 - Panthers v Rabbitohs
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese watches the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly said if Bennett, who handed over the reins at Souths to Demetriou at the end of the 2021 season, was interested in returning, the club would be keen to explore that possibility.

Solly said Bennett could be the man to get the best out of the “unique” playing group at Souths, which was a trait of the best coaches.

“Wayne is one of the coaches we will talk to,” Solly said on Wednesday morning.

“Wayne had great success, he left the club on very good terms. We will speak to Wayne and if he’s available and interested certainly will progress that.

“I think we want someone who fits this fine group and can get the best out of them. It’s a unique client group having worked with them for a long period of time.

“And we want I think a coach that can get them to form their best consistently and we want I think a coach that understands the values and heritage and history of this club.

South Sydney Rabbitohs Training Session
Wayne Bennett could be back at South Sydney. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

“We’ve got great skills, great athleticism and some great personalities and every head coach has to get the best out of them whether it’s Ivan Cleary what he does at Penrith over a long period of time, Wayne, his track record with a number of clubs.

“The best coaches always get the best out of their playing group.”

Solly said he hadn’t yet spoken to Bennett but was convinced he “he loves the values the club stands for”.

“I think he’s made that pretty clear in his time here, and since then, about his affection for the club, the ownership, board, the management team,” he said.

“So we will certainly be speaking to Wayne because he left the place in very good shape when he left, and he was great while he was here.”

Solly said former club captain Sam Burgess’ contract with Super League side Warrington would potentially rule him out as an option to replace Demetriou.

Burgess was moved on as an assistant to Demetriou after the premiership winner clashed with the head coach.

“I don’t really know what Sam’s plans are.” Solly said.

“Sam, I think has a two-year contract at Warrington and we’d have a good level of respect for the group at Warrington and the team, so we wouldn’t want to disrupt that.

“And my view is this is Sam’s opportunity to show the world that he can coach and we wish him every success with that.”

Solly told Demetriou on Sunday that he no longer believed he was the right man for the job in the wake of the 54-20 Anzac Day thrashing at the hands of the Melbourne Storm.

Two board meetings on Tuesday confirmed the coach’s fate, resulting in a $360,000 termination payout (nine months’ salary).

Bennett, 74 and serving his last season in charge of the Dolphins, has been linked to Parramatta next year if the Eels end up splitting with Brad Arthur after 11 seasons.