Dragons won't be softies: Bennett - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dragons won't be softies: Bennett

By Ed Jackson 01/12/2008 03:41:43 PM Comments (0)

He says he doesn't know too much about his squad yet, but new St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett can promise fans one thing in the 2009 NRL season.

No one will be labelling the Dragons as softies.

After picking up New Zealand World Cup forward Jeremy Smith, former Penrith hooker Luke Priddis and Canberra forwards Neville and Michael Weyman Costigan, Bennett said his team would show plenty of starch in the season ahead.

"There's a perception that St George haven't been tough, well I guarantee you they'll be tough next year," said Bennett at his first Dragons training session in Wollongong.

"If they've (Dragons) under-achieved, and that's the perception, well it doesn't all fall back on the coaches they've had here before, there's got to be some other underlying factors.

"I've got to find out what that is and I haven't come here with any preconceived ideas. I've got to look, listen, watch and start to pick up the things that I think we need to improve."

Bennett's 21 years with the Brisbane club yielded six premierships and also brought him stints in charge of the Queensland and Australian teams.

But with the Dragons trying to end to a 30-year premiership drought, Bennett was under no illusions about the task he faced, rating it among his biggest challenges.

"It's up there with them, every time you go out of your comfort zone you challenge yourself," Bennett said.

"Being here today, you know that you've got to be up for it, you know that you're going to have to be on your toes and at your best because it's going to require all of those things to meet the challenge that lies here, being part of a great club.

"This is an icon club and you know that people are expecting a lot."

St George won their the last of their 15 titles in 1979 and have lost five grand finals since - including two to Bennett's Broncos in 1992 and 1993 and one since the joint venture with Illawarra, in 1999.

Despite the off-season recruits coming into the club, Bennett admitted the loss of key players such as Mark Gasnier and Jason Ryles would take some filling.

"We've lost a world-class centre in Gasnier, obviously that's a huge gap for us that we've got to fill," Bennett said.

"There's been issues with the halves here, there's been issues with the hookers, they're obviously areas that we've got to gain.

"The back row's never been settled, there's been guys coming in and out of there so again that's an area that's got to be addressed.

"It's just a matter of getting the right people on the bus and putting them into the right positions."

The 58-year-old said his settling-in period would need to be quick with a tough match schedule looming immediately when the season gets underway in mid-March.

"Our first month going into next season is pretty horrific," said Bennett.

"We've got Melbourne, the Broncos, the Sharks, all huge games and so we've got to hit the ground running, we can't afford to have a slow start otherwise the season could be over for us before it even starts."

Bennett said his coaching advisory role with the victorious New Zealand World Cup team had been one of the highlights of his career and had energised him ahead of his new club job.

The arrival of his former Broncos mentor has also excited Dragons winger Wendell Sailor.

"I think when you talk about success and obviously Wayne, his record speaks for itself," Sailor said.

"As much as I hate to say it, even the Kiwis, it's not by luck that Wayne helps them out and they win.

"Just because he's here doesn't mean we're going to win a premiership but I think it certainly helps.

"I love the bloke, I love having him here and I just think the guys are going to get so much from him."

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