Wayne Bennett has announced he will quit the Newcastle Knights at the end of the season.
Bennett had been signed to the Knights until the end of the 2015 season, however after the collapse of Nathan Tinkler's ownership his contract was up for re-negotiation.
Wayne Bennett quits Newcastle Knights
Master coach Wayne Bennett has confirmed he will leave Newcastle Knights at the end of the 2014 season, but the club says he will continue coaching elsewhere.
The master coach's decision to leave the Knights will only further speculation that he is bound for a return to St George Illawarra, who he steered to a premiership in 2010 after a long and successful career with Brisbane.
"First and foremost, I am not comfortable with the performance of the team over the three years and I take full responsibility for that," Bennett told the Newcastle Knights website, which also reported he planned to continue coaching at another club.
“While we have been faced with many challenges, the club is heading in the right direction ... I believe it will take a number of years to reach an acceptable position and that is what I am unable to commit to. A longer term coach is crucial for future success.”
Bennett told the players and staff on Thursday morning he was leaving.
The Dragons are yet to confirm who their first-grade coach will be for next year and beyond, with Paul McGregor stepping into the job in an interim capacity after the sacking of Steve Price this season.
Wherever Bennett ends up he will leave Newcastle with the Knights having not fulfilled the lofty ambitions the club was pinned with as a result of the Tinkler takeover.
They came within only a game of a grand final appearance last season, but dreams of a premiership came crashing back to earth this year with Newcastle in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.
Little has gone the way of Bennett's side in a forgettable campaign which has influenced his decision to part ways with the club.
Between the jailing of front-rower Russell Packer, the tragic injury suffered by Alex McKinnon and the uncertainty and turmoil surrounding the breakdown of Tinkler's reign it has truly been a season from hell.
Bennett's announcement comes only two days after NRL chief executive Dave Smith said he hoped the 64-year-old would stay in Newcastle to help see them out of the tumultuous Tinkler period.
The NRL took over ownership from Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group last month but and there was uncertainty over whether any new contract offered to him could match the reported $1 million a season he was earning with the former mining magnate in charge.
While the full-time vacancy at the Dragons makes a return there the obvious next step for Bennett, there will be undoubted nervousness in coaching circles around the NRL with the game's most revered taskmaster on the open market.