The age old argument of influence. It’s the sporting world’s version of the ‘chicken and the egg’ debate. Which has more influence… horse or jockey, car or driver, player or coach? <br><br>Well, brace yourself for a great insight into who holds the ultimate power in rugby league. <br><br>On Saturday night, super coach Wayne Bennett goes up against his former super player Darren Lockyer. The head-to-head between the Broncos and the Dragons this season is square at one-all... but it now comes down to the preliminary semi final at the Suncorp Cauldron, home of the Broncos and a pitch both men know very well.<br><br>Wayne Bennett won six premierships as coach of the Broncos – and Darren Lockyer played a major part in four of those victories. <br><br>Wayne knows Darren’s game better than anyone, even to the point where he suggested Jamie Soward watch videos of Darren’s play in order to emulate his influence on a team. The ploy has clearly paid off, with Soward discovering career-best form while guiding the Dragons to the minor premiership.<br><br>Wayne will have his Dragon soldiers so ‘knowledged’ up on Darren’s game that they will think he’s been playing alongside them all year.<br><br>Wayne’s job will be to convince his side to take time with Locky by getting in his face and putting pressure on his kicking game – a task fraught with danger considering Lockyer has strike-weapon Israel Folau at the ready. The Dragons will need to be careful not to rush out of the line, because Lockyer will turn a kick into a dummy-step-run-pass and then a four-pointer before they can blink. <br><br>They are some of the obvious traits and I’m sure Wayne knows plenty more. But Wayne’s real strength and opportunity for influence is going to be from his knowledge of Lockyer’s weaknesses. If he can get the Dragons players to believe and execute his plan in nullifying Lockyer’s game, then he is one step closer to victory. <br><br>On the other hand, Darren Lockyer knows Wayne knows. <br><br>Darren is well aware of Bennett’s capabilities as a powerful motivator. He knows the Dragons will be prepared. He knows they will control the ball. He knows their outside backs will be ready to slingshot into action at the slightest sign of laziness from the Brisbane defence. <br><br>Those are the tactics. Let’s get back to the debate. <br><br>The great North Queensland, Qld State of Origin and Australian trainer Billy Johnstone maybe said it best....“Coaches get far too much credit when you win and far too much blame when you lose.” <br><br>It’s an educated comment considering Billy has been on and around football grounds all of his life. <br><br>I watched Collingwood’s recent semi-final victory where John Anthony nailed a 50 metre screamer to steal the lollies from an Adelaide Crows team. <br><br>In the press conference that followed, Collingwood Coach Mick Malthouse was asked what inspired the turn around. His reply was that he made a structural change that turned the tide. <br><br>I don’t know my AFL, but what I saw was a team who found belief in themselves and came up with an absolute cracker on the bell with pure concentration and a ‘Carpe Diem’ moment. <br><br>Given my current situation (head coach of the Wooden Spooners), I’d like to believe Billy’s view. <br><br>But I know there’s a lot more to coaching than tactics and motivation. A motivated player needs to be in an environment where he can have the ultimate influence on the field.<br><br>Plenty goes into creating that climate. There’s the staff structure, monitoring of media, balancing of player behaviour and egos, fans, finances and the Board. <br><br>These are all behind the scenes operations which combine to make up the environment in which the players eat, sleep, breathe… and play.<br><br>So when it comes to this weekend, I’ll be watching with great excitement as two legends of the game do battle. One the leader of the minor premiers - the Dragons, the other the captain of the Broncos. <br><br>I’m not going to make a prediction because in a society that demands best and worst, right and wrong, black and white... I’m going to grab a middle of the range, grey piece of fence and enjoy how these two masters of their craft try to inflict the influence needed to be victorious. <br>
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