The Courier-Mail

JETS HAVE SIGHTS SET ON BENNY

BRONCOS SKIPPER’S HIGH PRAISE FOR RIKI

- PETER BADEL CHIEF LEAGUE WRITER

WAYNE Bennett is in secret talks with the Brisbane Jets as the NRL’s prospectiv­e 17th team hatches plans to bring the super coach home to Queensland.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the newly formed Jets super bid has formally contacted Bennett with a view to the former Broncos coach calling the shots if they secure a licence as Brisbane’s second team in 2023.

As revealed yesterday, the NRL plans to seek tenders in April as ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys ramps up plans to create a fourth team in Queensland.

Bennett has not signed a formal contract with the Jets at this stage with the 71-year-old keeping his options open as the Dolphins and Brisbane Firehawks also prepare to submit robust bids for an NRL licence.

But the Jets are determined not to be ambushed in the expansion battle, holding negotiatio­ns with Bennett, whose three-year contract with South Sydney expires at season’s end – making him a free agent from 2022.

Brisbane Jets consortium figurehead Steve Johnson confirmed the amalgamate­d entity is in discussion­s with the NRL’s greatest coach.

“I have reached out to Wayne … we’ve had talks,” Johnson said.

“Wayne is still keen to coach on so, yes, we would look at him as our head coach for 2023.

“He has to talk to South Sydney about his future plans. They are keen for him to stay on in another role (after this season), but we’re hoping Wayne has a desire in coming back to Queensland.”

Bennett has historical links to the region, starting his coaching journey with Ipswich in 1976. The seven-time premiershi­p winner was born in Allora in the Southern Downs region west of Brisbane and still has a farm near Warwick.

The prospect of a second Brisbane team snaring Bennett would be a dream narrative for an NRL organisati­on plotting another great rivalry given his explosive sacking at the Broncos in 2018.

Now Bennett could return to haunt a Broncos club that has collapsed following his departure, crashing to their first wooden spoon under Anthony Seibold last season.

“We believe we have great synergies with Wayne,” Johnson said.

“A lot of people may not know this but Wayne started his coaching career in Ipswich.

“Aside from his connection to Queensland, Wayne is one of our own with the Ipswich community.

“He was born and raised in the western corridor, so if Wayne does become available to coach and we are lucky enough to win an NRL li

If W ayne (B ennett) does become available to coach and we win an NRL licence, we can’t think of a better person BRISBANE JETS CONSORTIUM FIGUREHEAD STEVE JOHNSON

cence, we can’t think of a better person than Wayne Bennett to coach the Jets.

“Hopefully, if we can clinch a licence, we can have some more meaningful dialogue.”

South Sydney are sure to fight hard to keep Bennett, with Rabbitohs bosses having discussed a consultanc­y role for 2022 and beyond.

Bennett declined to comment on talks with the Jets but told News Corp three weeks ago he is open to all offers.

“I’m contracted to Souths for this year and then after that I’m a free agent,” he said.

“I’ve got nowhere to go (in 2022). I haven’t done any deals with anyone. I haven’t agreed to anything.

“There’s a number of strong applicants bidding to become Brisbane’s second team and they will need a coach, so I won’t rule anything out.”

Bennett urged Redcliffe, the Jets and Firehawks not to become obsessed with being a carbon copy of the Broncos. “The Crushers tried to be like the Broncos when they came in and they died very quickly,” Bennett said.

“What a second Brisbane team

needs is a long-term plan. If they go looking for quick fixes or quick results, they will struggle.

“And the other thing is not to look over their shoulder trying to be better than the Broncos or Titans. They have to forge their own identity and not fall into the stupidity of trying to be like the Broncos.

“My No.1 priority is to get through the season with Souths. I want to finish on a good note here.

“But I know how to build teams and what makes successful clubs work. There is no coach in the game who has spent more time in the game at a high level than myself. I have played or coached for the past 57 years.

“I was part of setting up the Brisbane Broncos, so I know what it would take to set up a second Brisbane team.”

BRONCOS skipper Alex Glenn has hailed Jordan Riki as Brisbane’s version of Sonny Bill Williams as the hulking forward looks to fill the void left by Titans recruit David Fifita.

Life after Fifita begins for the Broncos tonight when new Brisbane coach Kevin Walters unleashes the hard-running Riki in their final pre-season trial against the Cowboys at Redcliffe’s Dolphin Stadium.

Fifita was regarded as a 10year back-rower for the Broncos, but his shock big-money transfer to arch-rivals the Titans this season has created a vacancy on Brisbane’s edge.

Enter Riki.

The 21-year-old was impressive in his rookie year last season, playing five games, and underscore­d his talent with a bargeover try for the Maori All Stars in last week’s 10-all draw against their Indigenous rivals.

At 190cm and 106kg, Riki is one of Brisbane’s most formidable athletic specimens, prompting Glenn to draw comparison­s with recently retired NRL legend SBW.

“Jordan idolises Sonny Bill Williams and I see some of SBW’s attributes in his game,” Glenn said.

“He is six (foot) three or six four, he is very agile, has footwork and an offload.

“He has a long career ahead and the best thing about Jordan is he’s always willing to learn.

“He hasn’t got a big head. He has played for the Maori All Stars, but he is still very humble and still eager to learn, I love that about Jordan.

“You want your younger players coming in and not thinking they know everything.

“The best thing is he is playing in a position I know a lot about, so it’s good to be able to mentor him and give him advice on little areas in the game he can improve on.

“We want to see players like Jordan play for the Broncos for 10 years-plus so I’d like to mentor guys like him.”

Riki will wear the No.12 jumper tonight in a back-row alliance with Glenn, who will captain the Broncos in a testimonia­l match to celebrate his 267-game career.

The rampaging forward made his first impact on the NRL last season in his fourth match against Penrith, spearing through the line and dummying past fullback Dylan Edwards to crash over for a superb 40m try.

Now coach Walters believes Riki is ready for more minutes as a member of Brisbane’s starting side.

“He finished last season off in the back row and did a great job in the last five games,” Walters said.

“From what we saw in the All Stars game last Saturday night, he didn’t look out of his depth.

“Jordan is a good young player and we are fortunate to have some senior role models in Alex (Glenn) and Ben Te’o to mentor him and guide him through the pathway we expect to be a long career at the Broncos.

“We need to remember he has just turned 21.”

 ??  ?? South Sydney coach and rugby league legend Wayne Bennett is being targeted by Steve Johnson and Nick Livermore from the newly formed Brisbane Jets consortium, as they eye off the supercoach to lead their club if they win the NRL’S 17th licence. Main picture: Getty Images
South Sydney coach and rugby league legend Wayne Bennett is being targeted by Steve Johnson and Nick Livermore from the newly formed Brisbane Jets consortium, as they eye off the supercoach to lead their club if they win the NRL’S 17th licence. Main picture: Getty Images
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 ??  ?? The muscular Jordan Riki at Brisbane Broncos training and (below) his idol Sonny Bill Williams. Main picture: Annette Dew
The muscular Jordan Riki at Brisbane Broncos training and (below) his idol Sonny Bill Williams. Main picture: Annette Dew
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