Bennett: New Broncos era starts now
Wayne Bennett believes the performance of his team should outweigh fan expectation as he returns to the helm of the Broncos when they take on the Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
The Round 1 blockbuster against the defending premiers will be Bennett's first match in charge of the Broncos since 2008 after previous coaching stints with the Dragons and Knights over a seven-year period.
The return of Bennett, coupled with the arrivals of new recruits Anthony Milford, Adam Blair and James Gavet, have lifted the creeping malaise surrounding the club after several seasons of below-par performances.
Known as the 'Messiah' amongst Brisbane's faithful, Bennett is easing the fan's lofty expectations, instead directing his focus towards the bigger, long-term picture.
"I'm looking for a really good performance so we can all say 'ok, we are on the right path here and we're building towards something'," Bennett said.
"I want to walk away from that tomorrow night – the result is not going to make or break us – it's going to be important the way we play.
"I want the start of a new era for us and to do a lot of things that will turn us into a top team and start us on that journey.
"I don't know [when that will happen] – I don't have a time limit on it – so I don't know if it'll take three years or one year.
"We started the Broncos back in 1988 and it took us five years to nail it. When we [did] nail it, we did pretty well for the decade.
"So that's the price I'm prepared to pay to get it right, but we will get it right."
The Broncos are currently on their longest streak (nine years) without winning a premiership, although Bennett insists he doesn't feel any increased pressure on his shoulders on the eve of his second tenure in charge of the side he previously managed for 21 seasons.
"There's always pressure here. I've never not felt pressure here – it just goes with the job – and it'll be there tomorrow night, I know that," he said.
"I'm prepared for that and I weighed that up in my decision to come back here.
"The thing I've managed the best in my coaching career is the fact that I have managed pressure and I have managed the expectation.
"Everybody's got expectation and you have to manage them. I have managed them and I'll manage them here.
"It's not something that I fear."
The return of Bennett is just one of many sidenotes on offer in the Suncorp Stadium showdown, with the other attraction for fans being Corey Parker's long awaited 300th game.
Parker has been stranded on 299 games since last season's qualifying final defeat against the Cowboys.
"I think that's what the night is about – we are starting the season and it's Corey's 300th – it's a wonderful milestone in the game," said Bennett, who handed Parker his NRL debut in Round 6, 2001 in a 13-12 loss to the Warriors in Auckland.
"There's nothing better in the game than winning a premiership with your teammates, but individually it's probably the greatest accolade you can get for surviving in this place as long as he has.
"He's not the biggest bloke to play the game or the most skilful in terms of the way he plays but at 101 kilograms playing in the [forwards] – there's very few in the competition that size and he handles it every week – it's been a credit to him."
"[Corey] has been a very committed bloke, very mentally tough and he bought those qualities from the first time I saw him as an 18-year-old and he's just developed them further.
"He wouldn't have done all this if he didn't have those qualities."