Advice … Wayne Bennett. Photo: Simone De Peak Wayne Bennett with the Raiders after their 1987 grand final loss against Manly. Photo: SMH

Options … Tim Sheens, Ricky Stuart and Michael Maguire.

Coaching great Wayne Bennett has been sounded out to provide informal advice to the Canberra Raiders as the search for their next coach ramps up this week.

The Newcastle mentor and seven-time premiership winner holds a soft spot for the Raiders after co-coaching them to the 1987 grand final with Don Furner senior, the father of axed coach David.

Bennett’s input has been limited, given the Knights are finals-bound, but his involvement highlights Canberra’s determination to cast a wide net.

The Raiders sounded out South Sydney coach and Canberra junior Michael Maguire about leaving the Rabbitohs, but he will almost certainly stay at Redfern.

The Raiders have denied club great Ricky Stuart is one of the candidates but speculation continues to link the premiership-winning halfback to a return to Canberra.

Other potential leaders include: interim coach Andrew Dunemann, Warrington leader Tony Smith, Rabbitohs assistant Wayne Collins, Andrew McFadden, Kevin Walters and Rick Stone.

It is also understood the Raiders could appoint three-time Canberra premiership-winning mentor Tim Sheens as a coaching director if they opt for an inexperienced coach to take over next year.

Fairfax Media understands support for Stuart is divided within the four-man subcommittee appointed to find Canberra’s next head coach.

Former Raiders captain Alan Tongue said the choice between a rookie coach or an experienced mentor would shape the club’s future.

”You look at [Sydney Roosters] coach Trent Robinson, he’s one of the younger generation of players coming through and you have to look at getting a coach on that level [with Gen Y players] or going for more experience,” Tongue said.

”An experienced coach can stamp his authority, so you look at do you get a guy like Neil Henry back or Tony Smith from Warrington. I can’t say who’s the right fit for the job at the moment, but they need to look at a coach who will get the best out these young kids.”

The 12th-placed Raiders have one game left in one of the most disastrous seasons in their 32-year history. It has included the sacking of coach Furner, Josh Dugan’s departure, Sandor Earl’s peptide suspension and Blake Ferguson going AWOL.

Ferguson is due in court on Tuesday to answer sexual assault charges. He will face the Raiders’ board later this week to determine his future at the club.

The coaching subcommittee of Mal Meninga, Raiders chief executive Don Furner and board members David Thom and Allan Hawke met last Thursday and will reconvene this week.

Up to 16 aspiring coaches have applied to replace David Furner.

Axed North Queensland coach Neil Henry has some support, despite walking away from Canberra in 2008 with two years left on his deal to join the Cowboys. Souths coach Maguire has been informally approached, but he is likely to stay with the ladder-leading Rabbitohs.

Former Raiders assistant coach McFadden has applied after joining the Warriors coaching staff this year.

Melbourne assistant coach Walters remains one of the front-runners after informing the Storm he would be leaving at the end of the season.

His brother, Raiders great Steve, insists his sibling is ready to lead an NRL side after a 10-year apprenticeship.

”I’m 100 per cent sure he thinks he’s ready, and I’m 100 per cent sure he could do the job,” he said. ”I think he’ll end up coaching one of the teams which doesn’t have a coach, and he’s worked hard for 10 years to get into that position.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.