Wayne Bennett is reportedly searching for a new NRL club to coach — and is looking to break his Broncos contract one season early.
The Courier-Mail first reported Bennett has been informed his request for a one-season contract extension through to the end of the 2020 season has been knocked back by the club's board of directors.
That knock-back has reportedly prompted Bennett to explore a path of walking out on his contract at the end of this season (with one year remaining) — hoping to secure one final NRL head coach job.
Bennett may in fact be sidestepping the axe with the Broncos' board reportedly set for a showdown meeting in October where they will consider sacking the man who led the club to all six of its premierships.
In the face of rapidly declining support at the club, Bennett has reportedly instructed agent Gavin Orr to approach rival NRL clubs about their head coaching positions after the 2018 season.
Reports last week indicated Bennett has spoken with a Panthers official about replacing sacked coach Anthony Griffin at the end of this year.
Despite saying last week that he wants to remain at Brisbane, Bennett has also been linked with a move to the Titans.
Having lost to the Cowboys and Bulldogs in the past two weeks, Bennett's options do not appear as wide or as bountiful as thought at the start of the season.
Despite the Broncos' form slump, The Daily Telegraph reports the NRL rumour mill has Bennett linked with several potential new clubs next season.
The 68-year-old has been linked with Penrith, Parramatta, St George Illawarra and the Gold Coast, according to the report.
Despite both remaining contracted for the 2019 season, Cowboys coach Paul Green and Anthony Seibold are also rumoured to be a chance of moving to the Broncos at the end of the 2018 season.
Penrith legend Mark Geyer on Monday endorsed his team's link with Bennett, saying the veteran coach is exactly what his club needs now.
He said the Panthers are very capable of winning the grand final in 2018 and 2019 — and believes the club must consider Bennett on a two year deal to focus solely on winning the competition in those seasons.
"Cameron Ciraldo is a really good young coach and I think he'll be a career coach as well, but for the short term Penrith have got this window at the moment where the next 12-18 months is very imperative to win a comp and I think they will if they get a bloke like Wayne Bennett for a period of two years," Geyer told Triple M's Grill Team.
He said Bennett and Panthers supremo Phil Gould would simply have to learn to share the balance of power at the club.
"They'd both have to cop each other. It's as simple as that," he said.
"If Bennett wants a job and Gus wants someone who can lead Penrith to win the comp, then I think Bennett is that guy."
Meanwhile, Broncos great Kevin Walters says he still expects Bennett to coach the Broncos in 2019 — as CEO Paul White declared at the start of the season when the Broncos were first sprung making a play for Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
"I think he'll be there next year — unless something else comes up for Wayne," Walters told Sky Sports Radio.
"I believe that he'll be coaching the Broncos next year and he has a contract there for next year."
On Saturday Ivan Cleary ended speculation on a move to Penrith next season, confirming he "intends" on honouring the final two years of his contract with the Wests Tigers.
In a prepared two-minute statement on Saturday, Cleary said he was not aware Penrith chairman Dave O'Neill would discuss the club's coaching future during a recent meeting.
Cleary insisted no offer had been made to return to his former club, but immediately informed Tigers bosses about the Panthers' approach on Monday. Penrith supremo Phil Gould insists Cleary's decision to inform Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe of the development prompted the club to eventually cut ties with Anthony Griffin.
"When I was approached by the Panthers initially I had no idea it was about coaching their club," Cleary said on Saturday.
"I was told in that meeting that the club were looking at the future of the head coaching position. I advised the Panthers of my ongoing contract status with the Wests Tigers.
"I subsequently advised the chair and CEO of the Wests Tigers of the discussions I'd had with the Panthers."
Cleary, who refused to take further questions on the matter, said he was shocked by Penrith's decision to fire Anthony Griffin earlier this week. Then he allayed any concerns about serving the final two years of his current deal.