Less than a week after being named Queensland’s head coach, Wayne Bennett has brutally sacked Brisbane Broncos great Justin Hodges from the Maroons coaching staff.
After Kevin Walters was chosen as Anthony Seibold’s replacement at Red Hill last week, Bennett was handed the Queensland coaching duties on Friday, just over four weeks out from game one of the 2020 State of Origin series.
It will be the 70-year-old’s fourth stint as Origin coach, with the current South Sydney Rabbitohs mentor having previously been in charge from 1986 to 1988, 1998 and 2001 to 2003.
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But Bennett has wasted no time in his new role, opting to replace Queensland assistant coach Hodges with Neill Henry, as revealed by Nine News reporter Ben Dobbin.
Henry boasts an impressive coaching resume with 11 years experience in the NRL, including stints with the Canberra Raiders, North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans.
“Wayne Bennett believed he needed to have more experienced assistant coaches with him to help as they have an uphill battle taking on NSW,” Dobbin said.
“The bloodletting began with Justin Hodges, last year’s assistant, let go by Wayne Bennett and will not be involved in this year’s series.”
Hodges and Bennett worked together as skipper and head coach respectively during Brisbane’s 2015 NRL premiership, in which they reached the Grand Final.
The Queensland squad is expected to be revealed on Wednesday, and North Queensland Cowboys forward Josh McGuire has reportedly been overlooked.
Despite being a stalwart in Queensland’s side since making his Origin debut in 2015, McGuire will be the biggest casualty from Wednesday’s announcement.
According to Fox Sports journalist James Hooper, Bennett intends to usher in the next generation of Maroons, and emerging stars AJ Brimson, Mo Fotuaika and Phillip Sami will earn a call-up.
In a historic first, the entire 2020 State of Origin will take place after the NRL Grand Final, with game one scheduled for Wednesday, October 4 at Adelaide Oval.
Queensland will be hoping to prevent the New South Wales Blues from claiming their third consecutive Origin series.
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Bennett said he felt privileged to be given the opportunity to step up for the Maroons in such a big series.
“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.”
— With NCA NewsWire