Wayne Bennett will finish up as Brisbane Broncos coach at the end of the 2019 season after the club decided not to extend his contract.
Bennett, who has coached the Broncos in two stints and won six premierships with the club, is contracted until the end of next season and had initially hoped to extended his tenure beyond 2019.
But discussions with Broncos chairman Karl Morris saw Bennett agree he would see out his current contract and finish in what will be his 26th season with the club.
“Having the decision made now puts an end to speculation and allows a clear focus on getting ready for next season,” Bennett said in a statement.
“I firmly believe in the playing group we have here at the club.”
Broncos chief executive Paul White said no decision would be made on who would replace the 68-year-old Bennett until a later date.
“We are in no rush to find the next coach of this club and we have been clear on that for the past year. We have a process and we will work through that to get the best result,” he said.
“Planning has already begun for next season and we are expecting big things from the team.”
Bennett, who enjoys a 61 per cent winning record at the Broncos, was the club’s foundation coach in 1988 and remained at the helm in his first stint until the end of the 2008 season.
He returned to the Broncos in 2015 and enjoyed immediate success, as he guided the club to the grand final, where it lost to North Queensland in extra time.
Speculation was rife earlier this year that the Broncos were looking to move on Bennett at the end of his current contract and sign Craig Bellamy as coach for the 2020 season.
But Bellamy rejected the Broncos’ approach and instead re-signed with Melbourne Storm.
Bennett’s Broncos tenure marked with success
Bennett won NSWRL premierships with the Broncos in 1992 and 1993, before leading them to the Super League title in 1997.
He then guided the Broncos to NRL premierships in 1998, 2000 and 2006.
His time away from the club between 2009 and 2014 saw him coach St George Illawarra to its 2010 premiership, however he had mixed results with Newcastle during his three seasons with the club (2012-2014).
The Broncos have made a staggering 22 finals series in his 25 seasons in charge, although they made an earlier-than-expected exit this year via a 48-18 thrashing at the hands of the Dragons in their elimination final at Lang Park.
Although the Broncos said they were not in a hurry to appoint a replacement they have previously been linked with South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold and former Rabbitohs mentor Michael Maguire.
They may decide to make an in-house appointment with one of Bennett’s assistants, Jason Demetriou, regarded as an NRL coach in waiting.