Bennett's Souths stint ends without title

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Bennett's Souths stint ends without title

Wayne Bennett is still the NRL's super coach but ultimately he has failed to deliver what he was brought to South Sydney to achieve – a premiership.

Sunday's 14-12 grand final defeat to Penrith marks a heartbreaking end to the 71-year-old's three-year reign at the Rabbitohs.

The harsh reality is, as good as Souths have been under Bennett in the past three seasons, for the past two years Penrith have been the best team.

Souths pushed the Panthers all the way in a thrilling encounter at Suncorp Stadium, nearly snatching a win for the ages despite being under the cosh for long periods of Sunday's decider.

After such a messy end to his second stint at Brisbane, Bennett may not walk away from the Rabbitohs with an eighth premiership but his reputation is certainly restored.

Having guided the Rabbitohs to back-to-back preliminary finals, Bennett used all of his coaching and motivational tools to get Souths to this year's grand final.

Thrashings by the Panthers and Melbourne in the space of three weeks and the Origin period left Souths' season in the balance, but Bennett masterminded a 10-game winning streak to secure yet another top-four finish.

Even the club's controversial decision to not offer captain and boyhood Souths fan Adam Reynolds a new contract went from potential distraction to motivation.

Bennett showed his faith in Reynolds throughout, making it clear if it was up to him the playmaker would be staying beyond 2021 – a move that surely got his skipper and teammates even more on board with their coach.

Then Latrell Mitchell's season-ending suspension on the cusp of finals had many believing the superstar's absence signalled the end of Souths' premiership hopes.

Enter Blake Taaffe, the kid pitched in to replace Mitchell who on Sunday became the player with the least number of NRL appearances to their name to feature in a grand final – a decider where Bennett nearly completed another masterclass.

There's no trophy but Bennett heads back to Brisbane with plenty of options for his future.

A likely Brisbane expansion team is seen as the next challenge for Bennett, while he has also been touted to return to the Queensland State of Origin setup in a mentoring role for new coach Billy Slater.

As for Souths, the Rabbitohs now have to build on the foundations laid by Bennett as they continue their premiership quest without one of the game's greatest coaches as well as their inspirational captain.

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