Bennett prepares for Dragons derby - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bennett prepares for Dragons derby

By Steve Jancetic 25/03/2009 06:27:28 PM Comments (0)

Wayne Bennett has achieved just about everything in rugby league, but on Sunday afternoon at WIN Jubilee Oval, the master coach will be in for a first.

A local derby.

St George Illawarra up against crosstown rivals Cronulla, a rivalry steeped in 42 years of tradition and hatred.

With apologies to Brisbane's on-again off-again battles with one of the Gold Coast's many incarnations, Broncos-Titans has nothing on a Dragons-Sharks clash, where the word hate is bandied about with gay abandon.

It's a rivalry Bennett has only ever been able to watch from afar, and it's why he's not quite sure what to expect come Sunday.

"For me personally, the occasion on Sunday, no I don't have that edge that I know is amongst the fans," Bennett said.

"Obviously being in Brisbane I followed it with great interest, it's always a big occasion."

Asked if he had developed a hatred of the Sharks, Bennett said with a laugh:

"Not with the passion everyone else does anyway."

Flanked by former Dragons greats Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands, Craig Young and Graeme Wynn at Wednesday's unveiling of the redeveloped WIN Jubilee Oval, Bennett didn't need to look too far to find someone who knew something about Dragons-Sharks clashes.

Young, who remains on the Dragons coaching staff, said there was always an extra edge to the derbies.

"There is, I suppose traditionally because we're neighbours, you've got a lot of respect for each other I think and that makes it a bit more special," he said.

"Just the atmosphere, just walking to the ground as a player, there's a buzz about the day and people are excited."

Sunday's match will feature a little added spice with former Dragons skipper Trent Barrett to play his first game against his old club.

Young, who along with Bennett tried to bring Barrett back to the Dragons when he made it clear midway through last year that he wanted to return to the NRL, said the former Dragons golden boy would no doubt cop plenty.

"There's people that boo their own grandmothers ... it's about respect and he's an important part of their team," Young said.

Rugby league Immortal Raper is another who has seen the derby from both sides, having made a name for himself as a lock with the Dragons before coaching the Sharks for two seasons in 1975-76.

Raper claimed the reason for the bitterness between the two sides was obvious.

"More or less the edge is that they're a bit envious of us that we've won 11 premierships in a row," Raper said.

"And they hated me because I played in eight of them."

Sunday's match will be the first at the new-look ground since 2007, with only 5000 tickets still available.

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