Why Kevvie would have ‘no issue’ with Bennett return
Brisbane mentor Kevin Walters says he has no bad blood with Wayne Bennett and has given club powerbrokers his blessing for the super coach to make a stunning comeback to the Broncos.
Breaking his silence on the Bennett saga, Walters said he would not oppose the return of Brisbane's foundation coach if Broncos powerbrokers believe their alliance could help snap the club's 15-year premiership drought.
There is a view Bennett's potential third coming at the Broncos would represent a kick in the guts for Walters, his long-time assistant who has finally stepped out of his mentor's shadow to become Brisbane's head coach this season.
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But Walters, one of the most important political voices in the prospect of a Bennett resurrection at Red Hill, has put out the welcome mat for Brisbane's only premiership-winning coach.
"I wouldn't have a problem with Wayne coming back," Walters said in his first interview on Bennett since ascending to the Broncos coaching post in October.
"That would be a decision for the club to make, but I don't have a problem with it.
"I get on well with everyone.
"We all know what Wayne brings. I have no issue at all. I just want what's best for the Broncos. But that (Bennett returning in 2022) is something the club and Wayne need to sort out."
Walters' stance is certain to be digested by new Broncos boss Dave Donaghy, who opened the door for Bennett's return a fortnight ago when he took office as Brisbane's CEO successor to Paul White.
There is no suggestion Walters would be sacked by the club in favour of Bennett, who will return to live in Queensland as a free agent when his coaching contract with Souths expires in November.
Rather, Bennett privately believes he can act as a pressure valve for Walters, not only supporting him with coaching advice, but spearheading recruitment and driving the cultural standards that delivered six premierships to Brisbane between 1992-2006.
Contacted by The Sunday Mail, Bennett said he valued Walters' appraisal as he weighs up his next career move, which includes the option of coaching a proposed new second Brisbane team in 2023.
Bennett has held talks with bid teams the Brisbane Jets and Firehawks in the past three months, but remains open to a Red Hill reunification plan with Walters - if Broncos chiefs make the first move.
"I appreciate Kevin's words," he said.
"It's nice to know he feels that way about me. We've always had a strong relationship.
"I'm coming back to Brisbane but I've made no decisions about what my future holds.
"All I know is I'm coming back."
ARL Commission boss Peter V'landys says a strong Broncos club is critical for the code's next broadcast deal. He believes Bennett can be a powerful figure for either the Broncos or a second Brisbane team.
"Wayne is Queensland rugby league," V'landys said.
"He is the definition of Queensland. When you say Queensland rugby league, the first thing you think of is Wayne Bennett.
"A successful Broncos are essential for the health of rugby league. Broadcast revenue is what sustains us and without TV money, we don't have a sport.
"To dominate Queensland, we need the Broncos, the Titans and Cowboys to be strong to guarantee viewers in that state.
"We can't just rely on NSW fans to be a robust sport. The Broncos are critical to our product so I would love to see them fight back as a club."
Bennett was sensationally sacked by former Broncos chief executive White in December 2018, but Brisbane winger Corey Oates said players would welcome his return.
"One of the reasons I turned into the player I have been is because of Wayne. I'd be over the moon if he came back," he said.
"Look at what Wayne does with the teams he goes to. He can get the best out of them.
"'Kevvie' is similar. With Kevvie the passion has come back. They'd be a great combination together."
Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher, who has known Bennett for 50 years, believes the NRL's greatest coach could be a huge threat to the Broncos spearheading a second Brisbane team.
"I would be grabbing Wayne Bennett as the foundation coach of a second Brisbane team," he said. "I believe he offers more value to them than going back to the Broncos for a third time.
"The Broncos need to develop a plan that extends beyond Wayne Bennett.
"Kevvie is making progress. He deserves the opportunity to put his mark on the Broncos and while Wayne would do a great job back at the Broncos, he would be a great foundation coach for a new franchise."
Originally published as Why Kevvie would have 'no issue' with Bennett return