Queensland have looked to the past to recreate former glories with confirmation of the appointment of Wayne Bennett as coach for the upcoming State of Origin series.
Bennett, who has enjoyed three previous stints in charge of the Maroons, takes over from Kevin Walters, who left the position earlier this week to take over at Brisbane Broncos.
Bennett, currently with South Sydney, has won five of the seven Origin series he has been involved in, and was in charge when Queensland won their first series clean sweep in 1988.
“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 coached the Maroons from 1986 to 1988, in 1998 and from 2001 to 2003. This year’s delayed series opener in Adelaide will be his 23rd Origin game in charge.
Queensland rugby league director, Robert Moore, said Bennett’s experience in the Origin arena would be invaluable as the state attempts to wrest back the trophy it last held in 2017.
“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.”
The last time Bennett made a return to the Origin hot seat, he inspired a stunning series win in 2001 as the Maroons responded in style from a 3-0 whitewash the previous year.
The appointment comes as Bennett prepares his South Sydney side for an NRL elimination final against Newcastle on Sunday.
The 2020 Origin series, which has been delayed until after the completion of the NRL season due to the coronavirus, begins in Adelaide on 4 November, before games are scheduled for Sydney a week later and Brisbane on 18 November.