Wayne Bennett will not continue as coach of Queensland for the 2021 State of Origin series so he can focus on his job at South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

Bennett returned to lead the Maroons in October of last year, taking on the role after Kevin Walters had stepped down following his appointment at Brisbane Broncos. 

Queensland went on to win 2-1 - beating New South Wales 20-14 in the deciding game in Brisbane - but the search is now on for a new coach ahead of this year's series.

"We were really grateful that Wayne made himself available to help us out last year," Queensland Rugby League managing director Robert Moore said in a statement. 

"We understand the decision Wayne has made in his last year of his contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as he's eager to concentrate his efforts on them because they've been so close [to a premiership]," Moore said. 

"With Wayne's decision, we've now moved to a process to consider the next appointment and we anticipate that process will be completed early this year." 

The Origin games are scheduled to take place in June and July, having been shifted to after the NRL season last year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

South Sydney Rabbitohs released James Roberts from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds, the NRL side announced on Tuesday.

The Rabbitohs said the decision was agreed by both the star center and the club as Roberts focuses on his health and family.

Roberts – a former New South Wales State of Origin representative – entered a facility to get support with his health in May.

"With the support of Souths, I am working closely with professionals to get myself healthy and into a position where I can play my best footy and support my family," Roberts said in a statement.

"Souths have been very supportive during this period, helping me to focus on the recovery from my pec injury and providing support for Anna, me and the kids."

Roberts swapped Brisbane Broncos for the Rabbitohs in 2019 and made 12 appearances in his first season back with South Sydney.

The 27-year-old, who first played for the Rabbitohs in 2011 before leaving for Penrith Panthers in 2013, was limited to just six games this season, scoring one try as South Sydney reached the Preliminary Final.

"We've held many discussions and meetings with James, his family and his representatives over recent months about a path forward for James," said Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly.

"James is an elite athlete and he certainly could play at the highest levels of the game in the NRL again.

"James and his family will always be Rabbitohs, and we will continue to support them as he looks to continue his career."

Penrith Panthers ended a 17-year wait to return to the NRL Grand Final, beating South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-16 in a thriller at ANZ Stadium.

Ivan Cleary's side set up a clash next weekend with the Melbourne Storm, thanks to tries from Brian To'o, Tyrone May and Dylan Edwards.

Penrith's lone appearance in the Grand Final saw them beat the Sydney Roosters in 2003, and now they can target a second premiership.

It will be a battle between the two sides that were the strongest across the campaign, with Penrith having lost just one of 20 regular-season games.

In Saturday's preliminary final, Alex Johnston gave the Rabbitohs a dream start with a fourth-minute opening try, dotting down after captain Adam Reynolds put a perfect kick into the left corner.

Moments later, however, Johnston was at fault when he dropped a high kick and allowed To'o to barge through.

The Panthers were 12-6 ahead by the half-hour mark after May clutched a clever kick over the defence from Nathan Cleary, and a Cleary penalty just before the interval stretched their lead to eight points.

Dane Gagai snatched a try back for the Rabbitohs 10 minutes into the second half, making it a tight game again at 14-12.

Yet Isaah Yeo made a burst through the Rabbitohs defensive ranks and fed a short pass to his left, allowing Edwards to dart in under the posts in the 66th minute and stretch their advantage decisively.

Corey Allan pulled back four points for South Sydney, but Reynolds missed the extras and they failed to trouble the scoreboard again.

South Sydney Rabbitohs will face minor premiers Penrith Panthers for a place in the NRL Grand Final after producing another superb comeback to stun Parramatta Eels. 

The Bunnies came from 14 points down to beat the Newcastle Knights last week and trailed 18-8 at half-time at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday. 

However, they produced a magnificent 30-point second half to turn the contest on its head and prevail 38-24 on Saturday. 

A brace from Clinton Gutherson, sandwiched by a score from George Jennings, put the Eels in command at the break. 

But Liam Knight and Cameron Murray scored within the space of nine second-half minutes to give Souths a 20-18 lead that they extended in remarkable fashion.

Mitchell Moses had a seemingly simple penalty to level matters, but his effort cannoned off the post and rebounded to Jaxson Paulo, who surged deep into Eels territory. 

On the last tackle play, Damien Cook's kick was tossed up in the air by a desperate Gutherson, with Bayley Sironen there to touch down. 

It proved the pivotal moment in the game, which was effectively decided when Paulo intercepted Dylan Brown's looping pass to cross for his second. 

Jennings' second gave Parramatta a glimmer of hope before Cook danced his way over to book Souths' place in the preliminary final as they became the first team to overturn successive double-digit deficits in the finals since Melbourne Storm in 1999.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs were too good for the Newcastle Knights as they pulled off a 46-20 win in an NRL elimination final on Sunday.

The Rabbitohs fell 14-0 behind early at ANZ Stadium before recovering in dominant style to keep their season alive.

Alex Johnston and Tevita Tatola each crossed for two tries for South Sydney in what was their first meeting with the Knights in the finals.

All four of the higher-ranked teams won in week one of the NRL finals, with the Rabbitohs advancing to a meeting with the Parramatta Eels.

The Knights made a flying start and led 14-0 after just 11 minutes.

Hymel Hunt dived over on the right after a Kalyn Ponga pass before Bradman Best scored after Lachlan Fitzgibbon broke the line. Ponga also booted a penalty.

But the end of the half belonged to the Rabbitohs, who scored 20 answered points before the break.

Corey Allan broke through some soft defence before Cody Walker went over.

Johnston then dived over down the left as the Rabbitohs drew level, before Damien Cook sped away down the middle to set up Cameron Murray to give South Sydney a 20-14 half-time lead.

Newcastle made an error-riddled start to the second half and Adam Reynolds' penalty extended the Rabbitohs' lead.

A mistake from Ponga gave South Sydney another opportunity and Tatola reached over to score.

The Rabbitohs added some gloss to the scoreline as Johnston and Tatola crossed to complete their doubles and Cook raced away 80 metres for the sealer, before Hunt scored for the Knights on the siren.

The NRL's Integrity Unit is investigating "very serious" allegations made against former South Sydney Rabbitohs player Sam Burgess.

A report in The Australian published on Friday accused Burgess of domestic violence and drug use, while claiming the Rabbitohs tried to cover up his actions.

Mark O'Brien, the lawyer acting for Burgess, refuted the claims with a widely released statement reading: "The allegations are false and constitute an indefensible defamation against my client.

"It is apparent sources of the false allegations are those currently in dispute with my client over various issues."

The NRL said its Integrity Unit has been instructed to launch a "comprehensive investigation" into the allegations made against the Rabbitohs and Burgess, who has stood down from his role as a coach at the team.

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said: "These allegations are very serious and I've instructed the Integrity Unit to investigate the claims as a priority. We will also seek the advice of police and other relevant authorities throughout this process. 

"This is new information for the NRL and it is important we now gather the facts. The allegations have not yet been tested and due process will be followed as we undertake a thorough investigation.

"There is no place in our game for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of these allegations we will take the strongest possible action."

The Rabbitohs said they welcomed the investigation and will cooperate fully.

"The allegations in today's The Australian newspaper are very concerning and the club is treating them with the utmost seriousness," a club statement read. 

"There is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of allegations of this nature, the club will take the strongest possible action.

"The club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs. 

"The club will continue to work closely with ASADA and the NRL which administer testing of the players. The club will also continue to work with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use.

"The Rabbitohs welcome the NRL Integrity Unit's investigation in relation to these allegations and will fully cooperate with the investigation. The club is supportive of Sam Burgess's decision to step down from his role at the club while the NRL Integrity Unit investigation is underway."

Burgess won an NRL Grand Final with the Rabbitohs in 2014 and returned to the Sydney club in November 2015 following a short and unsuccessful stint in rugby union with Bath.

He represented England in the 15-man game at their home Rugby World Cup in which they were eliminated in the group stages.

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson was left feeling "embarrassed" after watching his side thrashed 60-8 by Alex Johnston-inspired arch-rivals South Sydney Rabbitohs in Friday's NRL action, while the Gold Coast Titans swept aside the Newcastle Knights 36-6.

The Roosters went into the match third and four places ahead of the Rabbitohs in the table for the final round of the regular season, but they found themselves on the end of a historic battering.

The Bunnies claimed their biggest-ever win over the Roosters to make sure of a home match in the elimination finals, while the omens are not great for the latter – no side has ever won the Grand Final having conceded 50 points or more in a single game that season.

Robinson's side actually began the stronger, getting the match's first try after just three minutes, but they were soon pegged back and ultimately blown away – Johnston was the star of the show as he tapped down five times, including three in the final eight minutes.

"It hurts a lot. It's very embarrassing for us, there's not much more to say to that really," Robinson summarised.

"To go out and perform like that – it was really disappointing, I can imagine you can't feel much worse."

The Knights produced a similarly limp display against the Titans, who were in charge practically from start to finish – Ashley Taylor getting try number one in the second minute in what was a sign of things to come.

He later completed a hat-trick and also kicked three goals, as the Knights head into their finals meeting with the buoyant Rabbitohs in shaky form.


Canterbury Bulldogs' ferocious start helped the NRL strugglers climb off the bottom of the table with a fine 26-16 victory over South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.

The Bulldogs let rip in the opening half hour on Thursday, surging into a 20-0 lead to leave their hosts stunned.

Jake Averillo's penalty got the Bulldogs up and running, with Tim Lafai going over soon after.

Matters were made more difficult for the hosts when Jaydn Su'A saw yellow for a high hit on Lachlan Lewis, which forced Canterbury's half-back out of the game.

The Bulldogs made their numerical advantage count – Reimis Smith and Raymond Faitala-Mariner going over in quick succession.

The Rabbitohs were in desperate need of a response, which came in the form of a try from Jaxson Paulo, who appeared to have been in touch before he grounded the ball, with Campbell Graham then further reducing the gap before half-time.

Alex Johnston went in and Adam Reynolds added the extras to move the Rabbitohs to within four points early in the second half, yet their comeback hopes were all but ended by Chris Smith's first NRL try.

Defeat leaves the Rabbitohs in sixth place, with their hopes of a home final in the balance, while Brisbane Broncos have dropped into last place with two games remaining.

South Sydney Rabbitohs limped to a slender 26-24 victory in Thursday's NRL clash with Wests Tigers after nearly blowing a 20-point first-half lead at Bankwest Stadium.

The visitors held a commanding advantage with half an hour played but had to hold on at the end of a game that saw three men sin binned in the second half.

Defeat for the Tigers ends their hopes of reaching the finals, while the Bunnies move into fifth and within two points of Sydney Roosters, who play Newcastle Knights on Saturday.

A dramatic contest only looked to be heading one way when the Rabbitohs, beaten 22-16 by Melbourne Storm last time out, racked up three quickfire tries.

Dane Gagai, Corey Allan and Campbell Graham crossed over in the space of 15 minutes, with Adam Reynolds converting all three to help give his side an early 20-0 lead.

The hosts produced a remarkable comeback against Manly Warringah Sea Eagles last week and were at it again when Luke Garner and Tommy Talau dotted down before the interval.

Alex Twal was sent to the sin bin eight minutes into the second half and tempers further flared two minutes later as Gagai chucked the ball at Luke Brooks' head.

A melee ensued and both men joined Twal in being issued yellows, with the Rabbitohs making the one-man advantage count as Graham raced behind for his second try.

But Brooks scored an impressive try after returning to the field to give the Tigers hope and Asu Kepaoa touched down three minutes later after being played in by Benji Marshall.

Just two points separated the sides for the closing 14 minutes but there was to be no further scoring as the Tigers came up just short.

Melbourne Storm finished strongly to overpower the South Sydney Rabbitohs 22-16 in a high-quality NRL contest at ANZ Stadium.

With a little over 20 minutes of Friday's contest remaining, Storm trailed 16-10 before Tino Faasuamaleaui finished from close range after fine work from Cameron Smith.

Cameron Munster then showed great skill to go over and put Storm ahead for the first time in the match with 15 minutes remaining, a lead they would not relinquish.

The Bunnies had led by four points at the break with converted efforts from Campbell Graham and Cody Walker answered by Ryan Papenhuyzen and Justin Olam for Storm.

Adam Reynolds kicked eight points, but the Rabbitohs were unable to prevent second-placed Melbourne from reducing Penrith Panthers' lead at the summit to three points. 

In Friday's other contest, Chad Townsend was sent off and three other Cronulla Sharks players were put on report and such a lack of discipline proved costly in a 38-10 thumping at the hands of Newcastle Knights, for who Kalyn Ponga scored a hat-trick.

Townsend saw red for a shoulder charge on Ponga 12 minutes into the second half, while Wade Graham, Toby Rudolf and Braden Hamlin-Uele were cited for lifting tackles.

Starford To'a scored twice, while Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Josh King also dotted down in a resounding seven-try victory Newcastle, who hop ahead of the Bunnies into sixth.

South Sydney Rabbitohs full-back Latrell Mitchell will miss the rest of the NRL season after rupturing a tendon in his left hamstring.

Mitchell did the damage when team-mate Jaxson Paulo landed on him in a tackle during the 38-0 thrashing of the high-flying Parramatta Eels on Thursday.

The 23-year-old, who joined the Rabbitohs from city rivals Sydney Roosters in January, will play no further part in the Bunnies' bid to be crowned premiers.

South Sydney have not put a timeframe on Mitchell's absence as he prepares to visit a surgeon with a view to undergoing surgery.

A brief statement from the club said: "Rabbitohs full-back Latrell Mitchell had scans on his injured hamstring today.

"Mitchell has ruptured the proximal hamstring tendon in his left leg. He will be assessed by a surgeon with a view to repairing the tendon.

"Mitchell will be unfit for the remainder of the 2020 season."

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett had hoped Mitchell would be fit for the finals.

He said after the hammering of the Eels: "He's done his hamstring but we're just not sure of the seriousness of it.

"It's probably won't be anything under a month but hopefully he'll be back in a month."

South Sydney Rabbitohs boosted their chances of securing a top-four finish in the NRL by beating Parramatta Eels 38-0, but Latrell Mitchell is set for a spell on the sidelines. 

The Rabbitohs racked up their fifth straight win to move level on points with the fourth-placed Sydney Roosters, who do have a game in hand, but saw full-back Mitchell leave the game in the second half with a hamstring injury. 

After racing into a club-record 38-0 half-time lead against Manly Sea Eagles last week, Souths produced another stunning opening period against Parramatta on Thursday. 

Corey Allan touched down for the first try in the sixth minute after being released on the left by the quick hands of Mitchell. 

Jaxson Paulo crossed in the right corner for his first NRL try and Cody Walker went under the posts before Jaydn Su'a latched onto a grubber kick from Adam Reynolds, whose third successful conversion made it 22-0 at the break.

Mitchell was injured while attempting to stop Dylan Brown crossing for the Eels in the 50th minute, but the try was overturned by the TMO for an obstruction in the build-up. 

Campbell Graham stopped any hopes of Parramatta building some momentum with a try two minutes later, while he doubled his tally after Reynolds went over. 

The Eels, who only scored two tries in a 14-0 victory over a severely depleted Melbourne Storm last week, saw Brown go off with an apparent ankle problem and will need to quickly pick themselves back up with four rounds remaining before the finals. 

Shaun Johnson ruled out giving evidence against Kevin Proctor after the Gold Coast Titans captain was sent off for allegedly biting him during a 30-18 win for Cronulla Sharks.

Proctor's 250th NRL appearance will not be remembered for the right reasons, as the forward was given his marching orders following an incident in the second half at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday.

It was deemed after referee Henry Perenara asked the Bunker to examine footage that Proctor sunk his teeth into the arm of his New Zealand team-mate, so the 31-year-old was the first NRL player to be dismissed for biting.

Johnson, who came off with a groin injury later in the game, told Fox Sports: "Nothing happened, let's just leave it at that. We were both heated in the middle of the game and I was a bit high on him and whatever happened, happened, but we're still mates.

"It's his 250th [NRL match] and I don't want this to dampen this at all. He's been a great player for so long at Melbourne [Storm] and now Gold Coast, and he's led with his actions his whole career.

"I don't think it's appropriate and I guess this doesn't do Kevvie justice to talk about this. He's a great player and I've loved playing with him at Kiwi level and I've got nothing but respect for him."

Asked if he would testify against Proctor, Johnson replied: "No, not at all. I don't see the value of taking it any further than what's happened here today. I love him as a player and person, and I've got nothing more to say about it."

Three tries in the space of six minutes from Sione Katoa, Wade Graham and Jack Williams following Proctor's exit put the Sharks well on their way to a seventh win in nine matches.

Adam Reynolds was on target with a late penalty and a field goal after Alex Johnston grabbed a double in a dramatic 31-30 win for South Sydney Rabbitohs over North Queensland Cowboys.

Canberra Raiders put the sorry Brisbane Broncos to the sword in the final match of the day, Nick Cotric touching down twice in a 36-8 rout at GIO Stadium.

South Sydney Rabbitohs inflicted more pain on the beleaguered Brisbane Broncos despite the absence of Wayne Bennett with an emphatic 28-10 victory in the rain at ANZ Stadium.

Broncos coach Bennett was forced into isolation for two weeks on Thursday after breaching the NRL's biosecurity protocol with a trip to a restaurant.

The Bunnies were clearly not affected by Bennett not being present for the clash with his former club on Friday as they moved up to sixth place, with Jason Demetriou filling in as coach.

Dane Gagai finished off a well-worked move to put the Rabbitohs in front and although the Broncos responded with a score from Herbie Farnworth, Adam Reynolds and Mark Nicholls crossed to give the home side a 20-6 half-time lead.

The fit-again David Fifita marked his return from injury with a try to give the second-bottom Broncos hope, but Tom Burgess finished at the other end and Reynolds made it four conversions out of four to complete the scoring.

It was another day to forget for Brisbane, with club legend Allan Langer earlier among three staff members to be stood down for breaching COVID-19 protocols.

New Zealand Warriors earlier ruined Manly Sea Eagles boss Des Hasler's 400th game as an NRL coach with a 26-22 victory at Lottoland.

Patrick Herbert grabbed a double as the Warriors got off to a storming start, leading 16-0 after 18 minutes, before withstanding a Manly fightback to move up to 11th.

South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett and St George Illawarra Dragons prop Paul Vaughan will go into self-isolation amid coronavirus concerns.

Bennett and Vaughan breached NRL biosecurity protocols by dining separately at restaurants.

The pair have been placed in a 14-day "COVID Hold" and they will isolate for two weeks and must test negative for coronavirus before returning.

"We are living in extraordinary times and we must do everything in our power to ensure the health and safety of our players, staff and the general community," NRL acting chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

"This is a regrettable decision but today's actions will operate as an important reminder to our players and staff about the importance of strict adherence to the protocols.

"Our players and staff have made significant sacrifices to ensure the season can proceed. I have sympathy for the liberties they have had to give up and I am proud of how well the overwhelming majority have complied with our protocols.

"We have worked closely with governments, biosecurity experts and our clubs to ensure a successful and entertaining season and today's enforcement of protocols will ensure no risk to the playing groups or the general community."

The Rabbitohs and Dragons are battling to finish in the top eight and face the Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters respectively in round 13.

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