Rugby League boss Peter V’landys has questioned the decision of Wayne Bennett to put his name forward for the vacant New Zealand coaching job. The Dolphins coach is reportedly the frontrunner to succeed Michael Maguire as the head coach of New Zealand.
Bennett announced on Tuesday that he has formally put his hand up to take over the side from December - at the end of his contract with the Dolphins. It comes months after Maguire accepted the NSW State of Origin job which effectively ended his relationship with the New Zealand side.
News of Bennett’s interest in the Kiwis job led to V'landys taking a cheeky swipe at the Dolphins coach's choice. "I don’t know why Wayne wants to get on a loser. He’s normally a winning coach, why would he want to go and coach against Australia," he told Triple M's The Rush Hour.
NZRL chief executive Greg Peters confirmed Bennett will get a formal interview for the role, with the governing body reportedly keen to name Maguire's successor by the end of next month. The Dolphins coach says he is excited by the role as he "loves a challenge".
"I’ve expressed interest in the (New Zealand) job, yes," Bennett told News Corp. "I’ve spoken to the NZRL and I’m waiting for them to come back to me.
"This doesn’t mean I’ve got the job, there will be other applicants, but the point is I have expressed interest, the NZRL know that and they have a process going on, so I’m sure they will get back to me at some stage. I am waiting to see where it goes. I have been in contact with a guy to make it known I’m keen on the Kiwi job and let’s see what happens. I love a challenge."
Bennett has extensive coaching experience at all levels of the game, which includes a 2008 World Cup victory as an assistant coach with New Zealand. He has also won seven NRL premierships with the Brisbane Broncos (six) and St George Illawarra Dragons (one) and has won five State of Origin series with Queensland.
NZRL to talk to several candidates before deciding on new coach
NZRL are keen to appoint a permanent coach sooner rather than later as they look towards the 2026 World Cup. And while Peters believes Bennett is a top candidate he said there are several other promising options in the mix.
"We are certainly interested in talking to Wayne, as well as a number of other candidates who have put their name down through the advertised process we ran," Peters said. "We have to finalise that in the next few weeks, we hope.
"I haven’t spoken to Wayne personally, yet. We’re in the application process and we’re going through an interview panel stage shortly. But we certainly know Wayne’s interest in the organisation so we’re looking forward to talking to him."
Kiwi legends Nathan Cayless and Stacey Jones are also reportedly in the running for the vacant New Zealand coaching role. Cayless formerly worked as Maguire's assistant coach, while Jones is a highly respected figure within New Zealand rugby league.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.