Wayne Bennett in $3 million Souths development amid Darren Lockyer call on Dolphins

Bennett's likely return at Souths has sparked questions for the Dolphins.

Wayne Bennett has struck a verbal agreement with Souths owner Russell Crowe worth at least $3 million and "will be at South Sydney next year", according to Fox League's James Hooper. The Dolphins coach is reportedly being offered a three-year deal from 2025 to replace his former protege Jason Demetriou - sacked as Souths coach last month - but NRL great Darren Lockyer insists the veteran mentor will not raid his former club when bringing in new recruits at the Rabbitohs.

Bennett seemed to enjoy toying with reporters whew asked about his coaching future at an NRL press conference on Wednesday. And Hooper believes it's because the 74-year-old is "holding all the aces", knowing he's a man in demand and already has his future sorted, despite going on to remind reporters that he's out of a job after this season when his current deal with the Dolphins runs out and assistant Kristian Woolf takes over.

Pictured right to left, NRL great Darren Lockyer and Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett.
NRL great Darren Lockyer has weighed in on Wayne Bennett's likely return to Souths and what it could mean for his Dolphins players. Pic: Getty

“He’s literally loving life because he’s holding all the aces,” Hooper said on NRL 360. “The deal has already been done, the deal has been done verbally with Russell Crowe over the telephone. He will be at South Sydney next year.

“I think it will be a three-year deal when it is finally rubber stamped and made official, I think it will be a million dollars at least per-season, if not more. What the Rabbitohs really want is Wayne to continue beyond that, they want Wayne to continue coaching until he’s 79, possibly even 80. Which would mean that he’s coached way over 1000 games.”

The Daily Telegraph's Michael Carayannis added: “He’s loving it, loving the theatre, he’s loving being in demand. He’s loving the people working in the shadows on his behalf. Reaching out to other clubs and the like. I think this is all set up for Wayne and he’s enjoying every second of it.”

Bennett's succession plan after moving to the Dolphins and handing over the reins to Demetriou at the Rabbitohs ultimately did not work out as intended for South Sydney. But NRL great James Graham says that's as much down to the quality of coach that Bennet is and his proven ability to bring success to whatever clubs he coaches.


“He has such an ability to get the best out of players,” Graham told the NRL 360 panel. “Sometimes it’s the right message with the wrong messenger when it comes to coaching. Every coach delivers strong messages to their playing group. But when Wayne delivers that message, you stand up to attention and you go and deliver. He’s a person that, because of his standing in the game, you cannot afford to let him down. That’s where Wayne’s magic is, going to South Sydney this time around it’s very different... he’s got a lot of work to do.”

Wayne Bennett has emerged as the frontrunner to return to the Rabbitohs as head coach in 2025. Pic: Getty
Wayne Bennett has emerged as the frontrunner to return to the Rabbitohs as head coach in 2025. Pic: Getty

Bennett's Dolphins exceeded the expectations of most in their debut season in the NRL in 2023 and he once again has them flying high in fourth place in 2024. In contrast, South Sydney are languishing in last place and many critics argue they need a roster overhaul, prompting fears Bennett could bring some of the best available talent with him from the Dolphins, like he has done at previous clubs.

However, NRL legend Darren Lockyer - who won four premierships under Bennett at Brisbane - says the veteran coach has invested too much in setting up the Dolphins for future success and would not want to risk that by poaching players. " I feel like he's got a respect for them that he wants them to keep growing as an organisation, as a club," Lockyer told Wide World of Sports' QLDER.

" It would be different if they had won a couple of grand finals by now, he might have tried to pick a couple off. I genuinely think he knows they are a club that's just starting their journey, he was a part of it at the start. But I don't think he would want to sink the boot in at any point."