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Storm '99 win changed Bennett's thinking

By Philip Henderson 30/09/2006 01:29:31 PM Comments (0)

Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has revealed Melbourne's historic 1999 NRL grand final win changed his approach to coaching.

The Storm claimed its maiden premiership in its second year of existence in 1999, and did it without a recognised five-eighth.

Pivot Scott Hill injured his shoulder midway through the season leaving Matt Geyer, who has spent the bulk of his 214 first grade games on the wing, to take over at No.6 and partner playmaker Brett Kimmorley in the halves.

Bennett, who has won five premierships with the Broncos and has not lost a grand final in his 19 years with the club, admitted he had previously thought teams needed both a champion No.6 and No.7 to win a title.

But he said Melbourne's dramatic 20-18 win over St George Illawarra seven years ago changed that thinking.

"When Melbourne won in 1999 without a five-eighth in a grand final ... that just completely blew my mind," Bennett told the Austereo network ahead of Sunday's grand final against the Storm at Telstra Stadium.

"As a coach I always believed you had to have a top halfback and top five-eighth to win a title, after that I just made a decision you just get the best 17 players on the field and just see how they go from there.

"Positions aren't important as they used to be."

After having former Test stars Allan Langer and Kevin Walters in the halves for the Broncos' five previous grand finals, Bennett will throw unheralded 28-year-old No.7 Shane Perry, who started the season playing for Redcliffe in the Queensland Cup, into the biggest game of his career alongside Kangaroos pivot Darren Lockyer.

Hill will meanwhile front up for the Storm at six, playing alongside boom halfback Cooper Cronk with Geyer out on the wing.

Bennett, who also coached Canberra to the 1987 grand final before joining the Broncos, said making this year's premiership decider was perhaps more satisfying than those of previous years.

"This one probably does (mean) a little bit (more)," said Bennett, who made drastic changes to his coaching support staff at the end of last year, sacking Gary Belcher, Glenn Lazarus and Walters after another semi-finals fade-out.

"I've been under a fair bit of criticism over the past 12 to 18 months. The team has as well.

"Everything we kind of do has been criticised, so it's just nice to do what I spent 20-odd years doing, proving them wrong.

"I had a guy write to me earlier in the year, and I've still got the email at home, he just said `do what you've always done Wayne, prove them wrong'. And I've kind of kept it.

"It's meant a lot to me, this season."

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