Wayne Bennett has relinquished the Queensland men’s State of Origin head coaching role to concentrate on South Sydney’s 2021 NRL premiership campaign.
The Maroons were considered underdogs against two-time defending champion New South Wales, but secured a 2-1 series victory with a famous win in Origin III at Lang Park in November.
“We understand the decision Wayne has made in his last year of his contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as he’s eager to concentrate his efforts on them because they’ve been so close [to an NRL premiership],” Queensland Rugby League managing director Robert Moore said in a statement on Thursday.
“With Wayne’s decision, we’ve now moved to a process to consider the next appointment and we anticipate that process will be completed early this year.”
Moore said the Maroons owed a lot to Bennett.
“We were really grateful that Wayne made himself available to help us out last year,” he said.
Bennett, who turned 71 earlier this month, had not coached the Maroons since 2003 prior to replacing Walters last year.
He led the Maroons to State of Origin series wins in 1987, 1988, 1998 and 2001 across his three previous stints as coach.
They also retained the State of Origin shield in 2002 following a drawn series.
North Queensland’s 2015 premiership coach Paul Green, who departed the Cowboys during the 2020 season, has been mentioned in media circles as a possible replacement for Bennett.
The 2021 Origin series is scheduled to begin on June 9.