Former England head coach Wayne Bennett has declared that he would be interested in taking over as New Zealand boss after ex-Wigan Warriors man Michael Maguire stepped down.
Maguire stepped down just weeks after helping the Kiwis hand down Australia’s record defeat, winning 30-0 in the Pacific Championship Final.
However it was to be the final match he coached in his tenure with Maguire holding ambitions for the vacant New South Wales job, something that NZRL didn’t feel he could or should be allowed to balance whilst in charge of the national team.
In turn Maguire stepped down and has since been confirmed as the Blues’ next head coach, taking over from the departed Brad Fittler who lost the past two State of Origin series.
The vacancy in charge of New Zealand has attracted plenty of interest already but none more notorious than Wayne Bennett, the elder statesman of rugby league who has just about won everything there is to win in the game.
Bennett is currently coaching the NRL’s new side Redcliffe Dolphins heading into his second season with the Brisbane based club, however he has former St Helens boss Kristian Woolf waiting in the wings to take over.
It’s expected that Woolf will take on the role full-time, stepping into Bennett’s shoes, from the 2025 season onwards meaning Bennett will have plenty of time for a potential national team job ramping up towards the 2026 World Cup.
Bennett will turn 74 on New Years Day but his passion for coaching remains just as strong seemingly, and if he were to land the New Zealand job then it would mark an incredible moment in that he would have then coached all of the three elite nations.
Bennett had two spells with Australia in 1998 and then from 2004 to 2005, whilst he coached England from 2016 to 2020 including a series as Great Britain head coach.
The Daily Telegraph are now reporting that the veteran is interested in the vacant New Zealand job, something that NZRL would surely have to consider given the great coaches incredible record and legacy.
Bennett told the Telegraph: “I’m not retired yet so if the Kiwis are interested, I’m certainly open to it.
“I’ve got a history with New Zealand. I was involved with the All Golds team (in 2007), that was a great experience, we had a tour of England and I was coach of the team.
“I’ve also worked with Steve Kearney (former Kiwis coach) when he was coaching the Kiwis and they won the World Cup in 2008 with Steve in charge.
“I have great affection for the Kiwis, I coach several of their guys at the Dolphins in the (Jesse and Kenny) Bromwich boys and Jamayne Isaako.
“The door is certainly open for me. If it’s an option for the New Zealand Rugby League, they know where to find me.”
Greg Peters, Chairman of NZRL, has previously said that there is no rush to appoint a coach seen as the Kiwis don’t play again till October but Bennett’s interest in the role certainly adds a new dimension to the vacant role.