How Bennett is already making presence felt at Souths

Jasper Bruce |

Souths want to ensure they have Wayne Bennett on board for the 2025 season by the end of May.
Souths want to ensure they have Wayne Bennett on board for the 2025 season by the end of May.

Wayne Bennett’s presence is already being felt at South Sydney as interim coach Ben Hornby reveals plans to consult with the master mentor ahead of his likely return in 2025.

Before Thursday’s 42-12 loss to Penrith, Hornby joked with broadcast media that Bennett was trying to take his job before he’d even made his first-grade coaching debut, such has been Souths’ eagerness to bring the 74-year-old back to the club.

Current Dolphins coach and seven-time NRL premiership winner Bennett led the Rabbitohs to their last grand final appearance in 2021, the culmination of a successful three-year stint in charge.

Ben Hornby
Rabbitohs’ Ben Hornby watching their hammering by Penrith from the coaching box. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

He was identified by Souths chief executive Blake Solly as the Rabbitohs’ ideal coaching candidate the morning after the Rabbitohs fired Jason Demetriou, with Bennett later on Wednesday confirming his interest in the job.

If Souths have their way, Bennett will have inked a deal for 2025 by the end of the month.

But Bennett is already making his influence known at the Pride of the League as Hornby plans to take pointers from the coach for the remainder of the season.

Bennett and Hornby have a long history of collaboration; Bennett appointed Hornby to the St George Illawarra captaincy before his first of three seasons in charge and the duo went on to win what remains the joint venture’s only premiership a year later in 2010.

Bennett also helped the Rabbitohs hire Hornby as a development coach in 2020. The 44-year-old has since risen through the ranks to become attack coach and now interim boss.

Hornby said it was only natural Bennett would continue to help shape his career now that he is in the hot seat for the first time.

“Me and Wayne talk regularly, I’ll ask for his advice as anyone would,” Hornby said.

Asked what Bennett’s advice had been, he said: “To be me. That’s what Wayne says nearly every time. Be you. You can’t try and be someone else. Just be you.”

After the Rabbitohs’ week of chaos, Hornby made a point to keep the playing group level-headed in preparation for the Panthers.

“I know it’s not possible in that sort of a week but we tried to do it as best we could,” he said.

“Before the game, we were excited for the game, we were going up against the premiers, we get a chance to make a statement and I thought we did that. 

“Now it’s about taking that same desire, that same commitment, the stuff we showed out there, and do it for longer periods.”

Hornby’s strategy appears to have resonated with the playing group, with captain Cameron Murray keen to put the saga in the past.

“It’s not ideal circumstances,” he said of the week that was.

“I’m not going to sit here and lie and say it was easy, but in saying that, it probably wasn’t as hard as everyone thinks it was.

“We’re footy players, this is what we love to do and what happens on the outside and what we can’t control is irrelevant for us. 

“It’s been a tough week but that’s footy, we’re going to move on.”

Murray flourished under Bennett, becoming a State of Origin player for the first time during his first stint at the club and eventually starting at lock in the losing 2021 grand final side.

But he was unfazed by speculation of Bennett’s mooted return.

“Wayne, or whoever is coaching us next year, is coaching us next year. We’re worried about next week,” he said.

“Benny is here as our interim coach and that’s that.”