BRISBANE’S season doesn’t hinge on beating an inconsistent and frustrating Penrith tomorrow night.
But coach Wayne Bennett knows from experience the importance of hitting the finals road on the back of winning momentum.
A record eight NRL premierships has Bennett attuned to what is required from his players to go deep in the finals.
He dismissed suggestions the grand final could only be won by a team finishing in the top four, saying momentum was very important.
“Finals football is all about momentum,” Bennett said.
“I’ve seen teams playing woeful three weeks out from the playoffs and all of a sudden get some momentum with a few tough wins and they’re on their way.
“It’s important we play well (tonight) and get some momentum.
“We got some confidence out of last week (when beating the Rabbitohs 30-14) and we weren’t that bad against Melbourne regardless of what the scoreboard said (48-6).”
When these two clubs met earlier this year Penrith staged an incredible second-half comeback to win 23-22 after the Broncos had led 22-6 just before half-time.
Asked what Brisbane learned from the game, Bennett said: “We learned how to lose a game. That was 15 rounds ago, we’ve moved on.”
The ninth-placed Penrith will head north aware it needs to start building a winning sequence of its own if it is to play finals.
With Matt Moylan blossoming in Origin, Bryce Cartwright set to match rival Corey Parker in creating second-phase play and creative utility Tyrone Peachey and big Reagan Campbell-Gillard playing some good football, the Panthers certainly have enough firepower to worry Brisbane.
Bennett said Penrith had a lot of talented young players, such as Nathan Cleary, Cartwright, Moylan and Te Maire Martin, who had long futures in the game.
“They can play and their challenge is the same as ours – to get the young players to perform at a level which is required by the NRL and that can only be learned over time,” he said.
Bennett said Cartwright, who was pushing for NSW Origin selection this year, was a young talent who could do “exceptional things”.
“We’ve just got to defend him. We know how to do that, it’s a matter of getting the job done,” he said.
Bennett has made a late change with the experienced Alex Glenn moving back into the centres.
Former Broncos coach Anthony Griffin and halfback Peter Wallace return to Brisbane for tonight’s game, adding a little extra spice to the clash.
Bennett, meanwhile, said the club didn’t want to lose young prop Jarrod Wallace after the Titans confirmed they had the 25 year-old’s signature on a contract for the next three years.
“We wanted to keep him but they had more to spend on him than we did,” said Bennett, who is not a fan of paying “overs” for young props.
“We wish him well.”
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