Wayne Bennett has tossed up Anthony Milford as a potential solution but knows Adam Reynolds’ South Sydney departure will be felt at the Rabbitohs.
Sunday’s 14-12 loss to Penrith was Reynolds’ last game after 10 years at the club he barracked as a child, the in-demand halfback squeezed out and set to be the face of Brisbane’s rebuild under Kevin Walters.
Bennett is also leaving Souths, who he coached the last three seasons. He will return to Brisbane to live next year and, while he says he is yet to decide his future, has been strongly linked to the NRL’s expansion team set to be based in south-east Queensland from 2023.
Souths’ grand final appearance followed back-to-back preliminary final losses under Bennett since his messy exit from the Broncos.
As he prepares to move north, Bennett said Souths will “change a bit and there will be some challenges” for his current assistant and coach-in-waiting Jason Demetriou.
“The big issue will be Adam and replacing him,” Bennett warned.
Thrust into fullback after Latrell Mitchell’s suspension, Blake Taaffe showed he could be the man to fill Reynolds’ boots, while Lachlan Elias is another.
But he said 2022 recruit Milford would come in handy.
The playmaker took Bennett’s Brisbane to within seconds of the 2015 title but has struggled to live up to that form ever since and was this season slowly phased out by new coach Walters.
“Anthony Milford is going there and he will play better football than he has in the past few years,” Bennett said.
“But Jason will do a good job. He’s been a wonderful servant to the game and me personally.
“He has been a wonderful co-coach and done a great job. He has a wonderful staff and Ben (Hornby) will be staying with him.
“Jason is an extremely competent coach so I don’t think there will be many ripples at all.”
The narrow loss was Bennett’s second consecutive grand final defeat to follow seven straight triumphs.
He’ll return north after three seasons of near misses unable to boast of another, but “with huge, real appreciation of what South Sydney is all about”.
“My type of club really,” he said.
“They are honest, hard working, a great group of kids and young men. Responsible and working class Australians. I love them.”