Final defeat proves last act for Bennett

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The Independent Online

The Australia coach, Wayne Bennett, has resigned in the wake of the Kangaroos' defeat by New Zealand in the final of the Tri-Nations last month. "I probably made the decision after the game, the next morning, and then sat on it for two weeks to make sure I was happy with it," he said.

Bennett's resignation comes after Australia's first series loss in 27 years, despite the Australian Rugby League saying that it wanted him to carry on. "He doesn't make decisions on the spur of the moment and he has decided that it is in his best interests to stand down," the ARL chief executive, Geoff Carr, said.

Apart from the inevitable backlash from the unfamiliar experience of defeat, the taciturn Bennett has been under fire in Australia for dodging reporters at Brisbane Airport on his return from Britain and for failing to attend a National Rugby League coaches' conference this week.

He will continue as coach of the Brisbane Broncos, while the ARL begins the task of finding a successor. It says that it will take its time over that decision, but the leading contenders must include Ricky Stuart. He, however, has his hands full coaching New South Wales as well as the Sydney Roosters.

Tim Sheens, whose stock is high after coaching Wests Tigers to the NRL title this year, is another possible candidate, with the advantage of vast experience.

Leeds have sprung a major surprise by throwing a lifeline to the former England three-quarter Nathan McAvoy, who was released by Salford at the end of last season. The 28-year-old wing or centre made an unsuccessful return to rugby league with his first club after a stint in union with Saracens.

The Rhinos have signed him on a one-year contract. McAvoy has already started training with his new team-mates and will make his debut against Wakefield in the Boxing Day friendly.