Doing his best to play down the favourites tag, Smith believed the St George Illawarra side will put pressure on themselves as they try and impress their new coach and cement their position for the year ahead.
And Smith has a point, at this stage there has been virtually no talk about the Storm – a team that has lost a few faces in the off-season and will be doing their best to flex some early season muscle against the new-look Dragons.
Bennett raised a few eyebrows by leaving out big names Brett Morris, Neville Costigan and Matt Head as they face a torrid task against Grand Finalists Melbourne at the Olympic Park graveyard.
Preferring newcomer Darius Boyd at fullback, Bennett has left Dragons upcoming star Brett Morris out of the side and pushed try-scoring freak Jason Nightingale back to the wing. The other surprise was the confirmation of Wendell Sailor in the starting side, with many believing the veteran would only secure a bench spot at this stage.
As predicted by punters, Bennett went with the talented Ben Hornby over Head at no.7 and stayed with Jamie Soward at pivot, while Costigan and Paea were both excluded after trotting out for Shellharbour in last weeks 70-4 flogging at the hands of the Wests Tigers.
New enforcer Jeremy Smith gets his start at lock, with Ben Creagh and Beau Scott packing in the secondrow. Justin Poore and Michael Weyman as expected were chosen at prop, with Dean Young the rake.
Luke Priddis, Jarrod Saffy, Matt Prior and Dan Hunt make up the interchange bench. The bench will be heavily watched, with plenty of eyes expected to be focused on Luke Priddis, the former Panther having an average game against Souths in the Charity Shield and giving away a bag full of penalties which frustrated his side.
The team is: Darius Boyd; Jason Nightingale, Matt Cooper, Chase Stanley, Wendell Sailor; Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby (capt); Justin Poore, Dean Young, Michael Weyman, Beau Scott, Ben Creagh, Jeremy Smith. Res: Luke Priddis, Jarrod Saffy, Matt Prior, Dan Hunt.