The Queensland Rugby League can confirm Wayne Bennett will be the head coach of the Queensland Maroons for the 2020 State of Origin series.
Bennett takes the reins from Kevin Walters, who has relinquished the Maroons role to concentrate on his commitments with the Brisbane Broncos following confirmation of his NRL appointment on Wednesday.
Bennett’s return to the Origin arena sets the scene for a fascinating series next month, with the current South Sydney Rabbitohs mentor having a strong connection to the Maroons family after three previous coaching stints (1986 to 1988, 1998 and 2001 to 2003).
He has won five of seven Origin series while in charge of the Maroons, and was at the helm when Queensland won its first series clean sweep in 1988.
Bennett said he felt privileged to be given the opportunity to step up for Queensland in such a big series.
“I love coaching Queensland and I’m extremely humbled to be invited to coach this team again, particularly in light of the challenging circumstances with Kevin moving on to coach the Broncos,” Bennett said.
“I’m very proud and pleased that I’m still able to do it. State of Origin means so much to the people of Queensland.
“It’s been a difficult year for many people and I just want to give something back if I can.”
Bennett excited to be at the helm once more
Game I of this year’s series will be played on November 4 at Adelaide Oval. It will be Bennett’s 23rd Origin game in charge of the Maroons.
QRL managing director Robert Moore said experience would be invaluable.
“Our people involved in the process to appoint the new coach all viewed Wayne as the right person when we took into consideration the unique circumstances we are now faced with,” Moore said.
“There’s no doubt next month’s series will present a range of new challenges due to the scheduling change and biosecurity protocols.
“Wayne has the necessary experience and he knows what it takes to win big games at representative level, for both state and country.”
Bennett’s latest comeback will draw comparisons to the 2001 fairytale, when he returned to provide the spark for a stunning series win, just 12 months after the New South Wales Blues had swept Queensland 3-0.
In the final match of the 2001 series, Bennett famously enticed champion halfback Allan Langer back from England and it proved to be a master stroke as the inspired Maroons ran away with a 40-14 win to lift the Origin shield.