Bennett reunion a chance with expansion team set to target Walker as marquee man

If South Sydney are not careful and fail to lock up star playmaker Cody Walker on a multi-year extension, Wayne Bennett could swoop and lure him to the new Brisbane expansion team.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Bennett is set to be the innaugural coach of the NRL’s 17th license and that his Souths five-eighth for the last three seasons will be on the shopping list.

The Redcliffe Dolphins are tipped to be the NRL’s expansion team for 2023 with an announcement set to be made in the coming weeks and Bennett is all but guaranteed to be the coach.

That will give Bennett a little over a year to assemble his squad before pre-season training kicks off in November 2022.

Walker is off-contract in 2022 and like 157 other players coming on the market next year he will be eligible to negotiate with rivals from November 1.

Clint Gutherson, Reed Mahoney, Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga have been put forward as potential candidates for the new franchise who will look to make a splash with some marquee signings.

However if Bennett is the coach Walker would be his most obvious target after the pair spent the last three seasons together taking South Sydney all the way to the 2021 Grand Final.

Bennett regards Walker as the best five-eighth he has ever coached, which is saying something given he has mentored Wally Lewis, Darren Lockyer and Kevin Walters at the Broncos.

Walker is coming off a career best season that saw the NRL’s best left edge score 55 per cent of South Sydney tries in 2021, while he also led the try assist category and became the first man to notch over 50 linebreak assists.

The reigning Dally M five-eighth of the year is currently on a deal worth $650,000 a season but that number could potentially skyrocket given his current standing in the game.

Adding to the Brisbane team’s chances of landing Walker is South Sydney’s confounding policy of only offering players in their 30s one-year-deals, which cost them skipper Adam Reynolds, who will join the Broncos on a three-year deal next season.

Reports suggest Souths are willing to bend that rule to keep Walker, but they will need to up their offer susbtantially to compete with the money on offer elsewhere.

The 31-year-old loves the Rabbitohs and has said he wants to finish his career at Redfern and after debuting at 26, he feels he can play into his mid-30s.

Walker’s management wants a three-year deal to stay at Redfern.

However given his age he is at the back end of his career and depsite being in the best form of his life he will want to set up his family’s future with what is likely one of his last contracts.

Walker could potentially command around $1 million a season on the open market at the Brisbane expansion team or at another NRL rival.

South Sydney also have try-scoring freak Alex Johnston off-contract next season and stars Damien Cook and Latrell Mitchell come off-contract in 2023, so they have their work cut out to keep all three happy.

If they get their negotiations wrong the money on offer from Brisbane’s new team may prove too hard for Walker to ignore and a reunion with Bennett becomes a serious posibility.




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