Bennett says clubs against NRL expansion – including Souths – have ‘vested interests’

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett has hit back at club chief executives – including his boss at South Sydney – who question the need for a 17th team in the NRL, saying they have ‘vested interests’.

Bennett, who is in the sights of Queensland franchises if a new club is added to the NRL, said on Friday the governing body should not be listening to the clubs if it wishes to develop and grow as a game.

Australian Rugby League Commission boss Peter V’landys surprised clubs when he revealed talks about the expansion were back on the table following a pause due to COVID-19.

League bosses are now set to meet with three Queensland teams who are hopeful to win the bid for the 17th team within the next fortnight.

The news has upset Sydney clubs, who say they are suffering heavily financially due to the competition moving to Queensland, following the outbreak. Club bosses – including Souths CEO Blake Solly – told the Herald on Thursday they fear the financial situation within the NRL will only worsen if the competition expands.

“We have no understanding of where the NRL is at with the free-to-air broadcast negotiations, and very little information about their financial position. The 16 clubs in the competition at the moment should be the NRL’s priority,” Solly said.

Bennett disagrees with Solly and argues the NRL and clubs will benefit long-term from growth within the competition. Bennett will finish with Souths at the end of 2021 and is being targeted as a coach by Queensland franchise bidders.

“If we listen to the other clubs, we would never have had expansion,” Bennett said.

“We would certainly never have had State of Origin, we probably wouldn’t have Test football. There’s always a vested interest party out there and that’s the other clubs.”

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