Wayne Bennett firms as favourite for Souths coaching role as Braith Anasta calls out key detail

Souths have stuck Wayne Bennett atop of their coaching wish list following the sacking of Jason Demetriou.

South Sydney has confirmed that master coach Wayne Bennett is a leading contender to replace Jason Demetriou as the club turns their attention to finding a long-term coach. Demetriou was sacked after an emergency Rabbitohs board meeting on Tuesday night, with Ben Hornby put in charge of the NRL club in the interim. Hornby's first assignment is Thursday night's difficult encounter with defending premiers Penrith Panthers.

On Wednesday, Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly said while the club has full faith in Hornby in the interim, they are working to bring Bennett back to the club he took to the 2021 Grand Final. Bennett handed over the reins at Souths to Demetriou at the end of that season and Solly says if he is interested in returning next year, they would be very keen to bring him in.

Pictured L-R: Wayne Bennett, Jason Demetriou, Braith Anasta
Wayne Bennett is the favourite for the Souths coaching role. Getty

Solly said the club believes Bennett is the right man to get the best out of the "unique" playing group at Souths, namely the likes of young fullback Jye Gray. "Wayne is one of the coaches we will talk to," Solly confirmed 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. 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."

Reports had also linked former assistant coach Sam Burgess to the Souths job, although the Rabbitohs admitted that his contract with Super League side Warrington likely rules him out as an option to replace Demetriou. Burgess was an assistant to Demetriou but walked out on the Rabbitohs at the end of the 2023 season after his pleas to Demetriou to be harder on the likes of Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker fell on deaf ears. "I don’t really know what Sam’s plans are." Solly admitted.

"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."


Bennett, 74 is serving his last season in charge of the Dolphins and has also been linked to Parramatta next year with current coach Brad Arthur under pressure to keep his spot after 11 years in charge. But Braith Anasta believes Souths are confident of Bennett signing on from 2024 and that is the main reason why they signed Super League star Lewis Dodd.

Bennett's Dolphins assistant Kristian Woolf brought Dodd onto the scene, winning a couple of competitions in the Super League with him. And Anasta believes he was signed on the recommendation of the Dolphins' coaches.

ST HELENS, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Lewis Dodd of St.Helens celebrates after the team's victory following the Betfred Super League match between St Helens and Wigan Warriors at Totally Wicked Stadium on March 29, 2024 in St Helens, England. (Photo by Jess Hornby/Getty Images)
Braith Anasta believes the signing of Lewis Dodd (pictured) was done with Wayne Bennett in mind.

"I have a feeling that the signing of (Lewis) Dodd (from the Super League) could be linked to Wayne," Anasta said. "I don’t think they would have made a call as big as this without knowing who the head coach was going to be.

"I think with Wayne’s ties with the Super League and the English rugby league, and Dodd playing underneath his assistant at the moment."

James Graham agreed saying: "Kristian Woolf is at the Dolphins and he brought Dodd onto the scene. Anybody that has signed Lewis Dodd would have spoken to Kristian Woolf. It is a matter of fact he brought him through and he speaks very highly of him.

"He won him a couple of competitions over there and he absolutely loves this kid. I think if it hadn’t have been for Katoa, the Dolphins would have gone after him," Graham continued. "On the potential coach coming in Ben Hornby, you connect the dots and he was coached by Wayne Bennett in 2010 at the Dragons when they won a premiership, so that line of communication is open, which adds to that story."