D-Day for Brisbane and Bennett
Wayne Bennett faces his D-Day with Brisbane and Souths bosses locked in last-ditch talks on Thursday to complete a swap with Anthony Seibold and end the super coach's glorious reign at the Broncos.
The Broncos and Souths have until 5pm Friday to finalise the messy saga, with the Rabbitohs confident they will have Bennett calling the shots at Redfern next week.
The parties are expected to announce a peace deal as early as Friday.
It would be a devastating finale for Bennett, who is set to be denied a 2019 swan song celebration at the Broncos after 25 years of service as Brisbane's only premiership coach.
Incredibly, Souths mentor Seibold could find himself in Broncos colours by Monday, finally drawing the curtain on the most toxic coaching drama in Brisbane's 30-year history.
But amid the fireworks, there will be no player exodus from Red Hill.
The Broncos have completed a $2 million retention coup by securing Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai Jr and Corey Oates - scuppering any chance of the key trio following Bennett to the Rabbitohs.
The big-name triumvirate have agreed to terms on new deals, with the Broncos waiting for the dust to settle on the Bennett-Seibold affair before a formal announcement next week.
It is understood Pangai Jr and Oates will sign 12-month extensions, while Brisbane have been discussing a multi-year contract with Lodge ranging from two to four years.
There were fears the trio could be lost to the Broncos - Oates said two months ago he would quit if Bennett left - but if the super coach leaves the club in the coming days, he will go alone.
Just last Saturday, Bennett was convinced he would be coaching the Broncos next season after a three-minute meeting with chairman Karl Morris failed to result in his termination.
But Souths were determined to expedite the straight swap, bringing the rival NRL clubs back to the negotiating table in recent days.
Broncos chairman Morris and CEO Paul White will not sack Bennett. Instead, the Rabbitohs have made moves to request a release for Bennett which, if accepted, would clear the path for Seibold to step into the Red Hill hot seat.
Under the latest proposal, the Rabbitohs would pick up Bennett's Broncos salary for 2019 - around $1 million - while Brisbane would inherit Seibold's Souths deal.
Bennett could still torpedo the whole process by refusing to join Souths now, but he is increasingly mindful of the potential damage to both clubs if he hangs on at the Broncos for another 12 months.
If Bennett rejects the transfer deal on Friday, he will report for Broncos training on Monday, but the Rabbitohs were privately confident the 68-year-old will declare peace.
Adding to the complexity, the parties are also discussing employment for ancillary staff.
Bennett's current assistant Jason Demetriou is expected to join him at Redfern, while Seibold will bring right-hand man Peter Gentle and conditioning coach Paul Devlin to Red Hill.
Broncos skipper Darius Boyd said last week Brisbane players would have no issue working with Seibold.
"You have to take a business approach," he said.
"It's a business these days and coaches are not immune to it. I'd love to be coached by Wayne for the rest of my career but I have nothing against Anthony Seibold, as players we'll get on with the job."
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