The Kangaroos coaching role has become the most keenly contested job in rugby league.
Wayne Bennett, Mal Meninga, Geoff Toovey and Ivan Cleary are all in the running to succeed Tim Sheens as Australian coach with a final decision likely from the ARL Commission by Christmas.
Bennett became a surprise contender for the role on Friday when he confirmed his interest to News Corp in the job that has been vacant since Sheen’s Kangaroos lost to New Zealand in the postponed Anzac Test in May.
“I am interested in the Australian job,” Bennett said.
“I don’t know what the process is but I would like to do it again.
“I enjoyed my last stint with the national team and yes, I want to do it again.”
Bennett, who endured the heartache of seeing his Brisbane team lose the 2015 grand final in golden point, also cast aside suggestions the national role should be a full-time position, maintaining the view he could juggle the role alongside his post at the Broncos.
“I’ll tell you what the Australian team needs – they need the best coach, whoever that is,” he said.
Bennett’s previous time in the job from 2004 to 2005 did not end happily.
He bowed out from the role after Australia’s loss to New Zealand in the Tri Nations final.
It was the first time the Kangaroos had lost a major series in 27 years.
Bennett also coached Australia for two matches in 1998.
Sheens was handed a one-year extension for 2015. However it was generally accepted that his six-year reign in the job had come to an end before he took up a director role at Super League outfit Salford in June.
Meninga has enjoyed unprecedented success in his role as Queensland mentor, leading the Maroons to victory in nine of 10 State of Origin series since taking over for the 2006 season.
The former Australian skipper has been bullish in his aspirations towards the top job.
Like many others, Meninga feels the Kangaroos coaching job should be a stand alone role.
“To be honest, I don’t know why someone like Wayne would want the Test job. He has plenty of commitments with the Broncos,” Meninga said.
After being dumped by Manly late last season Toovey is another who has expressed interest in the job.
Cleary was sensationally axed by the Panthers on Monday, but his role as PM XIII’s coach in September was an indication he was being groomed for higher coaching honours.
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An unprecedented record as Maroons coach that boasts nine State of Origin wins in the last 10 series.
Meninga’s detractors says he fills more of a managerial role at the Maroons, with the likes of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk the real brains trust.
The supercoach showed he has still got it in leading Brisbane to the grand final in his first season back at Red Hill this year.
Doubts over whether he could wear two hats as Kangaroos and Broncos mentor and the conflicts of interest that might arise.
Led Manly to a preliminary final, a grand final and a semi-final in his first three years as coach, before the Sea Eagles missed the finals last season.
Inexperience coaching at representative level.
Revived the fortunes of both the Warriors and the Panthers, leading the New Zealand-based franchise to the 2011 grand final and Penrith to a preliminary final last year.
Phil Gould says Cleary is burnt out and in need of a rest. Cleary has also indicated his intention to return to the NRL so his appointment to the Kangaroos job would likely only be short term.