Two- horse race for Bennett

Townsville Bulletin - - Rugby League -

NATHAN Tin­kler’s prob­a­ble takeover of New­cas­tle looms as the only po­ten­tial ob­sta­cle t o ma s t e r c o a c h Wa y n e Bennett re­turn­ing to Bris­bane for an NRL farewell at the club he helped build.

Be n n e t t y e s t e r d a y c o n - firmed what had long been s u s p e c t e d w h e n h e a n - nounced 2011 would be his last year with St Ge­orge Illawarra.

The seven-time pre­mier­ship win­ner ad­mit­ted a sense of ‘‘ job done’’ af­ter end­ing the club’s 31-year ti­tle drought last year.

With South Syd­ney all but re­signed to hav­ing missed out o n b r i n g i n g B e n n e t t t o Red­fern, the lure of join­ing Tin­kler’s New­cas­tle revo­lu­tion is the only other re­al­is­tic op­tion apart from a re­turn to the Bron­cos.

New­cas­tle mem­bers will vote tonight on whether to ac­cept Tin­kler’s $ 100 mil­lion of­fer to pri­va­tise the club.

The min­ing mag­nate has done lit­tle to hide the fact he wants Bennett at the helm from 2012 should his takeover be suc­cess­ful.

Bennett was giv­ing lit­tle away dur­ing his an­nounce­ment in Wol­lon­gong, only to say that at 61 his de­sire coach re­mained strong.

‘‘ I still en­joy coach­ing, I don’t want to go home and sit around and do noth­ing,’’ said Bennett, who ad­mit­ted he first re­alised in June last year that he was un­likely to stay on at the Dragons when he

to re­jected a new of­fer with the club. ‘‘ I’ve met too many guys in my age group that had great jobs and loved what they did and thought re­tire­ment would be bet­ter – re­tire­ment’s not bet­ter.

‘‘ I’m not a golfer, I’m not a so­cialiser – I en­joy coach­ing and while I en­joy coach­ing I’ll keep do­ing it.

‘ ‘ I didn’t come here ( St Ge­orge Illawarra) as a longterm coach, I came here to get a job done, I be­lieve that has been done and I think it’s a good time for me to move on.’’

Bennett de­nied Tin­kler’s deep pock­ets were a mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor, say­ing, ‘‘ If it was about money, I wouldn’t be leav­ing here,’’ but he would also know the Bron­cos – as a pub­licly listed com­pany – would not be able to match any of­fer the Knights put for­ward, given they have to jus- t i f y t heir ex­pen­di­ture share­hold­ers.

There has also been spec­u­la­tion Bennett – with six ti­tles with the Bron­cos and one with the Dragons – has a strong de­sire to be­come the first coach to win pre­mier­ships with three dif­fer­ent clubs, but he was quick to hose down that sug­ges­tion.

‘‘ It’s like com­ing to Syd­ney – it’s not on my radar,’’ Bennett said of the multi-club chal­lenge.

‘‘ I didn’t have to come to Syd­ney to prove my­self . . . that was never my mo­ti­va­tion, and my mo­ti­va­tion is not to win pre­mier­ships with three dif­fer­ent clubs.

‘‘ I feel blessed with what I’ve done and if I never win an­other pre­mier­ship, I won’t go to sleep with any re­grets.’’

Bris­bane chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul White con­firmed the club had spo­ken to Bennett about his plans for 2012.

‘‘ We’re in there talk­ing to him,’’ White said, cau­tious not t o raise ex­pec­ta­tions given t he gen­uine t hreat posed by the Knights.

‘‘ We wouldn’t be in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Wayne if we weren’t very se­ri­ous about get­ting him back to the club.’’

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