Bennett turns up the heat on Fittler - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bennett turns up the heat on Fittler

By David Beniuk 11/09/2008 05:14:38 PM Comments (0)

It's fourth versus fifth, Sydney versus Brisbane and now Brad Fittler versus Wayne Bennett after the rookie Roosters coach found himself on the end of some niggle from his veteran Broncos rival ahead of Friday's NRL qualifying final.

Bennett, a veteran of 17 play-off campaigns, publicly questioned Fittler's decision to call in former Sydney Roosters mentor Phil Gould to help as he embarks on his first finals campaign as a head coach.

Asked if Gould's presence would be good for the Roosters, who haven't played finals football since 2004 when Fittler was a player, a candid Bennett said: "Yeah probably, but I wouldn't do it.

"Information overload becomes an issue then.

"This is a time of the year I always feel you've got to kind of be backing it off, not building it up."

Fittler's response was a curt: "I don't really care actually."

Asked if he was feeling daunted by Bennett's experience, the former Test five-eighth fired: "No, not at all. I think I saw a record they've won three out of their last 11 (finals) so it's not all rosy up there either."

It might not have been a full scale war of words as Bennett went on to praise Fittler for his first full year at the helm, but even that included a backhander.

"He's done a good job," Bennett said.

"He doesn't jump around the box as much as he used to though so he might be starting to realise it's getting a bit serious."

The exchange followed a minor mix-up at the Sydney Football Stadium, where the Broncos' early morning training session ran overtime before the Roosters took to their home ground.

If Saturday night will be a clash of the master and apprentice, Bennett doesn't think that will have much bearing on the result, which will leave the loser waiting out the weekend to find out if they're still alive in 2008.

"It always comes back to your players and their desire," Bennett said.

"I just couldn't be more happy with our fellas and after that it's what the two teams do out there tomorrow night.

"The coaches won't have much influence on it."

Fittler said he was still wondering if he'd be feeling butterflies before his first final in the coaches' box.

"It's where you want to be," he said.

"At the start of the season we set some goals and I was under no illusion that we weren't going to reach them so I'm pumped."

The two sides haven't met since round two, nearly six months ago, when Brisbane prevailed 20-14, while the Broncos boast an 11-5 record over the Roosters at the SFS.

The Roosters haven't beaten Brisbane there since 2003, while Brisbane have won six of the past seven matches between the clubs.

"You've got to start again somewhere so we can't be held responsible for what's happened in the past," Fittler said.

"It's a new group and we set some goals at the start of the year and we've achieved them up to date and we plan to keep going forward."

Brisbane centre Justin Hodges has overcome the effects of a virus, while prop Joel Clinton was also struck down with illness on Wednesday but trained on Thursday.

"I think we're just confident," Bennett said.

"They know they've got the best players in the club out there with the exception of one guy and they've played some pretty fair football in the last seven or eight weeks and they know what they've got to do now."

The Roosters are without star forward Willie Mason (knee) while Fittler virtually ruled out any chance of winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall making his return from a knee injury.

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