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Kiwis banking on Bennett's Midas touch

By Tom Wald 05/05/2008 07:53:29 PM Comments (0)

Wayne Bennett's affair with New Zealand may only be a one night stand but the Kiwi players are hoping his presence instantly injects a winning culture into the side.

The Brisbane mentor has been called in to assist rookie coach Stephen Kearney with the herculean task of toppling the star-studded Australian side in Friday night's Centenary Test at the SCG.

Superstar Sonny Bill Williams described New Zealand's recent form as a "disaster", the Kiwis losing 58-0 to Australia last October in Wellington before a 3-0 series drubbing in Great Britain.

But the imposing backrower believed the combination of Kearney and Bennett was just what New Zealand needed.

"With him and Stephen Kearney on board ... I have always thought that we had the talent but now we have the coaches," he said.

Bennett, who has produced some of the sport's most legendary coaching masterstrokes during his celebrated career, is only contracted for one match with the Kiwis.

Williams, arguably the biggest name in the sport, was like a nervous kid talking about his hero when Bennett's name was mentioned on Monday.

"Just being around him you get a bit scared because you do not want to say the wrong thing but he is a very good bloke," he said.

"He looks very serious on TV but he's a very down to earth bloke and really easy to get along with."

Former NZ captain Nathan Cayless spoke with similar adoration for the long-time Broncos mentor who has been a towering figure in the game for the past two decades.

"Wayne Bennett has such an aura about him it is just great to be working with someone like that," he said.

"A lot of us were a bit nervous coming into camp. I had only met Wayne once and am really looking forward to learning as much as I can off him."

Bennett was typically off limits to the media, brushing the one approach from news hounds.

But his influence was prevalent with the Kiwi players ensuring they didn't provided any ammunition for the heavily-favoured Australians.

Kearney said the six-time premiership coach had been the perfect foil as the Storm assistant starts his tenure with the toughest gig in international rugby league.

"We have been talking over the last couple of months at length, he has been wonderful his wealth of experience and knowledge has been great for me he has been a great sounding board for me," he said.

With six Storm players turning out for Australia, Kearney admitted to some inside knowledge.

Not that he was sure it would count for much.

"I have to give a little bit of information but again it is one thing knowing what they do, it is another thing stopping it," he said.

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