Bennett insists focus is Dolphins, not Qld

Wayne Bennett (pic) says he has had no approach to mentor new Queensland Origin coach Billy Slater.
Wayne Bennett (pic) says he has had no approach to mentor new Queensland Origin coach Billy Slater.

Wayne Bennett has dismissed speculation he could mentor rookie Queensland State of Origin coach Billy Slater next year, insisting his sole focus is preparing the Dolphins for their maiden NRL campaign in 2023.

The 71-year-old super coach was unveiled as the expansion club's inaugural coach on Thursday, having signed a four-year-deal with the Redcliffe-based franchise.

With the Dolphins not entering the NRL for over 12 months, many are speculating Bennett will provide assistance to Slater during next year's Origin campaign as the Maroons look to regain the shield from NSW.

Bennett has been Queensland coach for four separate stints, most recently masterminding the state's unlikely victory over the Blues in 2020.

"No-one has spoken to me about that, at all," Bennett said when asked about the links to the Maroons.

"I haven't been approached, so I'm not going to comment."

Instead, the man who steered Brisbane from expansion outfit to first-grade premiers in five years from 1988 is relishing the challenge of the latest chapter in his career.

Not all of Bennett's memories of the Dolphins - a feature of Brisbane's rugby league scene since their foundation in 1947 - are fond, including his first trip to Redcliffe as a player in the 1970s.

"1974. First game for Brothers at the Redcliffe showgrounds. It was a terrible afternoon," Bennett said.

"They were tough, bashed the hell out of us and the ground had no grass on it or very little and I thought if this is Brisbane football, I should have stayed in Toowoomba."

That long-standing history has Bennett confident he's starting from a far more established base at this venture than at the Broncos over two decades ago.

"This is an established club and I recognise that, it's my job to come in here and work within this framework," Bennett said.

"When we started in 1988 at the Broncos ... we had no club, we had no ground, we had virtually nothing.

"But it's a wonderful facility here. Extremely well run, very successful so it's a different context.

"Job's still the same but a different context."

Australian Associated Press