Bennett bemoans Eels slippery slide - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bennett bemoans Eels slippery slide

By Steve Jancetic 18/09/2009 07:47:59 PM Comments (0)

Returning to the scene of his greatest finals heartache may be tough, but Wayne Bennett's Suncorp Stadium rendezvous pales in comparison to the week from hell the St George Illawarra coach previously endured.

Bennett's Dragons will on Saturday night be out to avoid being the first NRL minor premiers to suffer a "straight sets" finals exit since the introduction of the McIntyre system when they meet Brisbane in a sudden-death semi-final.

But, describing the build-up to last weekend's qualifying final loss to Parramatta as "the toughest week's coaching I've been in for a long time," Bennett on Friday seemed relieved to have moved past the back-to-back clashes that threatened to bring down the Dragons' title run.

Bouncing out of a three-match losing streak to crush the Eels 37-0 in the last round, the Dragons then lost 25-12 to the same side in a final nine days later.

"We were in a tough situation - that was the toughest week's coaching I've been in for a long time having to back up and play Parramatta again," Bennett said.

"I wished I was (Eels coach) Daniel Anderson last week ... it was easier for them to get up last week.

"I said about a month before that I probably wouldn't have played my best team in the last game of the season, I didn't intend to do that.

"The problem for us was that we were out of form, we had to put our best team on the park, we didn't have any alternative, we had to get some confidence, and we did."

How much that confidence was battered by the qualifying finals loss remains to be seen, with even Bennett admitting to being in the dark as to how the players would rebound in a match they had to win.

"I don't know, I haven't been with the team long enough to know that," Bennett said.

"Certainly after South Sydney (in round 25) we needed to play well against Parramatta, but we haven't been in that situation that many times this year.

"You never know until you get to play again ... we've just got to wait and see."

If the players did need any pointers on dealing with disappointment, Bennett is certainly well placed to hand out a few tips.

The last time he fronted for a final at Suncorp Stadium, his Broncos suffered a heartbreaking 16-14 loss to Melbourne in last year's semi-final.

While he rejected suggestions the Broncos would use that loss as motivation this time around, Bennett admitted the last-minute defeat still burned.

"Those things never leave you - you remember those more than you remember the good times because you know the opportunities passed."

Brisbane coach Ivan Henjak did his best gain the early psychological advantage over his former mentor when he suggested all the pressure was on the Dragons not to bow out of the finals with back-to-back losses.

Bennett was quick to reject the suggestion, pointing out there were no second chances for either side.

"I just don't know how you get to a knock-out game with whoever losses the season's finished and the pressure's not on both teams?

"There's no tomorrow's for either of us. I don't think we share any more pressure than they do."

Representative duo Michael Weyman (general soreness) and Darius Boyd (knee) both failed to complete the side's final training run, but Bennett denied either was in any doubt.

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