As the Brisbane Broncos prepare to meet the Sydney Roosters tonight – it’s certainly a case of the master and apprentice in terms of coaching experience. In his final fling at the Broncos, coach Wayne Bennett was unusually chatty as he threw a few barbs at Roosters coach Fittler prior to tonights showdown; commenting on the fact that Freddy and called on the assistance of Gus Gould.
Bennett, with almost 2 decades of finals experience under his skinny belt, was surprised by Fittler’s decision to engage coaching guru Phil Gould prior to the the finals.
When asked his opinion on the Gould assistance, Bennett replied with “I wouldn’t do it”.
The stakes are certainly high for the Bondi club, missing from finals action since 2004 – the Roosters have recruited heavily in the past 12 months and have cleaned out the coaching ranks several times to make things happen. Fittler has been around the club for a long time and knows better than most whats expected, Nick Politis and the crew don’t take to losing too well and it’s obvious Freddy has felt pressure in recent weeks.
“Information overload can be an issue.” added Wayne Bennett, referring to Gould’s additional instructions to Roosters players.
“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 was unmoved by the Bennett comments “I don’t really care actually.” he added
When questioned about Wayne Bennett’s long and distinguished experience at this level, Freddy came back with: “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 wasn’t all icy, with veteran Bennett going on to heap praise on Brad Fittler after his short but impressive entry into the coaching world, however there was a final swing from Bennett to keep Freddy grounded.
“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.” smirked Bennett
The interviews took place after a scheduling problem at the SFS, where the Broncos’ AM training hit-out ran late before the Roosters got on to their home ground.
Tonight is another classic case of the master and the apprentice, it’s easy to forget the impact the result has on the individual coaching career in these circumstances. Bennett who is usually ‘insulated’ from the pressure after being at the Broncos forever, now finds himself having to ‘prove’ himself again. A failure in the finals might build tiny doubt inÂ his own mind and that of his new Dragons bosses if things start poorly next year. For Freddy, Finals success is his ultimate report card – a new coach trying to prove himself, must surely be judged on the final success.
“It always comes back to 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 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 yesterday but trained today.
“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