Bennett's ban works wonders for Knights

While you were glued to your television sets – and hopefully a grandstand seat or two – watching the colour and drama of the NRL kick-off at the weekend, the competition’s leading coach saw nothing.

Not only that, but Wayne Bennett told his Newcastle players not to view a minute of Round 1 action on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“I haven’t watched a game, actually – I haven’t watched one game,” said Bennett, for whom it must be said the blackout worked, given his side’s 42-10 win over Wests Tigers in Monday Night Football at Hunter Stadium.

“You kind of get brain-dead by Monday night if you start watching games on Thursday,” he explained. “I asked the players not to do that and I think they’ve been good... so we could get here tonight and be excited. 

“I think it worked for us,” said rugby league’s master of the understatement.

“I know this much: what starts off in March doesn't really equate to what's going to finish up in September,” he continued. “I’ve seen teams go off in Round 1 – ‘how are you going to beat them?’ – and by the end of the season, they haven’t even made the eight.

“There’s a lot out there in front of all of us.”

Speaking before his side was pummelled, Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah said what those of us not covered by Wayne’s ban had observed: that Round 1 featured quicker rucks than last year and a resultant faster game.

It was too fast for Farah’s side, with the unit Bennett assembled via a painful clean-out at New Lambton over the past 18 months racing to a 24-8 halftime lead.

“We weren’t tough enough or strong enough to handle the adversity we came up against,” the hooker said.

“We need to turn it around quickly or otherwise it’s going to be a long year for us.”

The defeat meant all three new coaches – Sydney Roosters’ Trent Robinson, the Warriors’ Matthew Elliott (well, he’s kinda new) and Wests Tigers’ Potter – suffered losing starts to their seasons. For Potter and Robinson, it was also their NRL debuts after being recruited from Super League. Between them the trio’s cumulative 51 players conceded 110 points and scored just 30.

“Welcome,” was Bennett’s utterance when asked for a comment on newcomer Potter.

However, given Potter’s club Bradford went broke last year, leaving him to volunteer to coach for nothing for the remainder of the 2012 season, the 1984 Dally M Medallist wasn’t about to get too distraught about a Round 1 defeat.
“The season’s not over in Round 1,” he told himself, as much as the post-match throng.

Which is just as well, or Wayne Bennett would have missed the whole thing...

BEST OF ROUND ONE: Cronulla’s stirring victory over Gold Coast despite being surrounded and besieged.

WORST OF ROUND ONE: A photo finish between the performances of the Warriors and Wests Tigers but it’s the Aucklanders by a bruised nose.

WEIRDEST OF ROUND ONE: Dragons centre Chase Stanley ‘scoring’ a reverse try – chasing the ball out of the in-goal and touching down in the field of play.

CLEVEREST OF ROUND ONE: Not one but two superb flick passes (first Scott Prince, then Justin Hodges) in Lachlan Maranta’s 34th minute try in Brisbane.

WHAT I SAW: Journos Joe Barton and Ben Horne not just going to a game on their day off... but flying interstate for one.