It’s another week in the NRL and super coach Wayne Bennett is gearing up to face another of his former clubs, with Dolphins hosting the Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium to kick off Round 7.
Both teams come into the match following last-start victories and while some fans might have expected some barbs to fly – even in jest – the tone in the lead-up to the game has been one of mutual respect, with Bennett playing down the significance of the match-up.
“I think they were going to be tough regardless of if they got a win or not, but we can only do what we can do tomorrow and we'll just see what that is,” Bennett told media at the club’s Wednesday morning captain’s run at Kayo Stadium.
“We'll give ourselves an opportunity to be our best and see what happens after that.
“If you want to make it a big game, we'll make it a big game... but the bottom line is, it's game seven in the NRL competition and we just happen to be playing South Sydney, so after that, you can put any connotation you want on it.”
Rabbitohs players like Damien Cook have spoken about their admiration for Bennett and what he has achieved, while Bennett was also full of praise for his former players that he knew his team will need to shut down in order to claim another win. There were also kind words for former assistant coach Jason Demetriou, who he will line up against for the first time on Thursday.
“(Jason and I) still talk,” Bennett said. “He knows his football really well and he's confident and I think they are prerequisites to being the coach … he had a good rapport with everybody and I don't see why that wouldn't have continued with him. I'm sure that's what he does very well.
“They (have players who) are pretty hard to shut down.
“Cody (Walker) is one of the most skillful players that I coached … but you just got to stay at it and that's what we'll do and see how it goes.
“Latrell (Mitchell) is a wonderful player, we all know that and we all love watching him play … he makes the job easy (as a coach) because he’s got so much going for him, he’s pretty footy savvy and a competitor and just loves playing football and likes being part of the team and makes a great contribution to the team, so all the qualities you like in players.”
Hat-trick for Mitchell in milestone match
Bennett was however looking forward to seeing both Mitchell and his own star fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in full flight during the game, with ‘the Hammer’ a chance to break a 115-year-old premiership record for consecutive tryscoring for a new premiership club. Currently, Tabuai-Fidow has scored at least one try in all six games played by the Dolphins, equalling a record set by winger Horrie Miller, who scored in the first six games played by Eastern Suburbs in 1908.
“(Mitchell and Tabuai-Fidow) are different types of players, but both wonderfully skilled and competitive guys,” Bennett said.
“I don't think they'll play against each other tomorrow night, they're trying to play for their teams, but it should be a good spectacle I hope.
“(Tabuai-Fidow) is in the Latrell Mitchell mould, their good athletes and he's got a pretty big motor on him. He's a pretty fit guy and he likes to compete out there and does it really well. And because of his fitness levels, he can keep turning up and that's what we see. If we make half a break, he seems to be able to get himself here.”
Hammer has a big one versus former club
In a turn of events few would have predicted before the season, the Dolphins sit higher on the ladder in fourth place against the highly fancied South Sydney side in 10th, with the newcomers surprising plenty with their strong start this season.
However, Bennett – who has won his past seven games coaching against the Rabbitohs – wasn’t basking in the side’s early success.
“If you believe the saying you're only good as your last game, and then that's where I'm always at,” Bennett said.
“We walked away from the Dragons two weeks ago, and that wasn't pretty, and that wasn't nice and that was the last game we played and we got to play the Cowboys and we turned up there, which we didn't turn up at the other place.
“That's the competition, that's the nature of what we do, so, you don't get too far ahead of yourself and give yourself pats on the back because after the Dragons game, there was no pats on the back for anybody and nobody felt good about what they did so, it's pretty much a week-by-week proposition and you are only as good as your last game.
“We're about to play again tomorrow night and we need to show ourselves that we can consistently play at a high level.
“Anybody else, whether they support us or criticise us, that's their prerogative, they can do what they like, but we've just got to turn up again tomorrow night and do our best.”
The Dolphins will be doing it tough again this week, with prop Jarrod Wallace the latest player to be ruled out of playing duty, due to concussion.
They do get skipper Jesse Bromwich back from a throat infection in a big boost, while former Raiders forward JJ Collins will make his club debut alongside winger Robert Jennings who is in for Edrick Lee.
Lee is set to return to the Capras this week in a bid to work on his fitness, with Bennett saying an injury-riddled pre-season meant he was not quite ready to fully return to NRL level.
The Rabbitohs however will be strengthened by the return of the club’s all-time leading tryscorer Alex Johnston on the wing and Queensland Maroons Origin forward Jai Arrow into the starting front row position.
Match: Dolphins v Rabbitohs
Round 7 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane