Lockyer and Bennett collide in NRL finals - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer and Bennett collide in NRL finals

Wayne Heming 11/09/2011 06:14:10 PM Comments (0)

They had hoped it would happen on the first Sunday in October.

But super coach Wayne Bennett and his long-time champion match-winner Darren Lockyer will collide in the NRL finals at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Fate has pitched the two greats, who together orchestrated numerous fine victories for club, state and country, into an appealing semi-final in which Lockyer leads Brisbane against Bennett's Dragons on a field where, together, they reigned supreme.

Bennett has attended several of the retiring Lockyer's milestone games this season, including his NRL record-equalling 349th match and, just recently, his last regular-season outing against Manly at Suncorp Stadium.

He said several months ago he wanted to be at Lockyer's last NRL game.

But he probably wasn't thinking it could involve plotting to ruin a Lockyer grand final farewell fairytale in a bid to keep St George Illawarra's back-to-back title dream alive.

Asked before the finals how he'd feel about coming up against Bennett, Lockyer said: "It would certainly add to the theatre.

"Wayne doesn't lose too many, it would be very interesting and a bit intriguing."

Lockyer was a vital part of four of Bennett's six premierships with the Broncos before the coach headed south to steer the Dragons to the title last season.

Neither Bennett nor Lockyer will show much emotion in coming days even though, for one of them, the match will be end of the road for 2011.

Such is the respect they have for each other, the game will be special - even a little difficult.

In his recently-released autobiography, Lockyer wrote of Bennett: "I wanted it on the record that the man affectionately know as Longneck was a coach who became a friend, confidant and guide through my career in rugby league and my life outside of it."

Lockyer recalls being "scared and intimidated" the first time he saw Bennett in the flesh after playing for Queensland under-12s at Lang Park.

Bennett has never hidden his admiration for Lockyer, who sits alongside Allan Langer and a few others as his favourite players.

In Lockyer's book, Bennett observes that while the 34-year-old's legs might have slowed, both Lockyer's mind and his ability to carry out a game plan to the letter remain as good as ever.

"He loves drawing opposition teams into a test of willpower to see who will crack first," said Bennett.

"His patience and control in pressure situations is unmatched."

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