Bennett backs Perth NRL bid, cagey about Souths talks

Joel Gould |

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett (centre) was cagey when asked about talks with the Rabbitohs.
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett (centre) was cagey when asked about talks with the Rabbitohs.

Wayne Bennett has backed the Perth bid in what he predicts will be a 20-team NRL competition within a decade, while insisting his looming homecoming deal with South Sydney will be sorted out “sooner or later”.

The Dolphins coach was cagey when asked if he was delaying until Magic Round talks with the Rabbitohs about joining them next season as head coach.

“Who said it was the Magic Round? I said it was this week,” Bennett said.

Next question: This next week?

“Yeah, last week,” Bennett replied.

Which week?

“We will get around to it. You will find out sooner or later. There is no need to worry,” the wily coach replied.

Bennett had been earmarked by ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys as a possible coach of an expansion team, with the NRL investigating expanding to a possible 20-team competition, with PNG, Perth and a second New Zealand team all candidates.

Bennett appears to be out of that equation now if he goes to Souths, but he still left that door open.

“Don’t write me out of anything, will you. Just let it all unfold and see where it goes and we will see where the expansion team comes in and what year it comes in,” he said.

“I have never spoken to Perth about doing anything with them, but I believe Perth should be one of the expansion teams.

“We will have 20 teams in the next decade in the competition. Australia is getting bigger every day. That is how it works.”

Dolphins' 2023 match against  Newcastle at Optus Stadium in Perth.
The Dolphins’ 2023 match against Newcastle at Optus Stadium in Perth was a sell-out. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

The Dolphins played in a sold-out NRL double-header at Optus Stadium last year, and Bennett has spoken to the Perth bid about their plans.

“They are very rugby league-aware now and have had a lot of (NRL) teams over there and Origin games,” Bennett said.

“A lot of people move to Perth from all over the world, but certainly there are a lot of Australians, English people and New Zealanders who know about rugby league.

“It is a huge area of income. They have got some of the biggest companies in Australia in Perth and Western Australia. It all makes a bit of sense, and they have got great facilities.”

Bennett and the Dolphins hierarchy are supporters of the Perth bid being first cab off the rank with expansion. 

The mastercoach is also in favour of a second team being placed in New Zealand.

The PNG bid has the backing of the Australian government and V’landys, with plenty of work already being done behind the scenes.

Bennett acknowledged the bid was high on the NRL’s agenda.

“I don’t think there is any doubt about that,” Bennett said.

“It is not a project that they are going to put together in six months. It will be a two or three year project when they make the decision.”

AAP