Bennett urges Broncos to seize moment
Wayne Bennett wants his side to seize their opportunity in next Sunday's Telstra Premiership Grand Final and deliver a long overdue seventh title to Brisbane's crop of aging stars.
The Broncos qualified for their first decider since 2006 after Friday night's comprehensive 31-12 victory over Sydney Roosters, scoring six tries to two in front of a raucous Suncorp Stadium crowd of 51,826.
As they have been for the majority of the season, Brisbane halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford were standouts for the home team, but it was the performance of some of old heads that caught the eye of the master coach.
Bennett highlighted experienced trio Corey Parker (168 metres and 33 tackles), Sam Thaiday (164 metres, 20 tackles) and Adam Blair (144 metres, 34 tackles) as key components in his side's 19-point victory over the minor premiers.
While still at the peak of their powers, Bennett noted that Father Time will eventually catch up on 33-year-old Parker, 30-year-old Thaiday and 29-year-old Blair and next week's decider represented their best chance at glory after years of waiting in the grand final wilderness.
"You can talk about Hunt and Milford but those old guys, we love them and they do a great job for us," Bennett said.
"The work Blair did and some of Sam's runs tonight, plus Corey's work – the thing you need to understand is when you get to their age time is running out on them and they want to grab that moment and that moment is making a grand final and winning one.
"Season after season has gone by and nothing has happened for them – Blair's [last premiership] was in 2009 (with Melbourne) and Parker, Thaiday and Hodges were in 2006 – nearly a decade ago and they don't have a decade left in the game."
Only the Storm or Cowboys stand in the way of Brisbane's first title in nine years and Bennett, who has seven premierships to his name, believes making the decider was the trickiest proposition his side faced after finishing the regular season in second place.
"The hardest part is getting here and when you do it's a lot easier," he said.
"It was important tonight to get it done otherwise you come back next year and there is no guarantees about next year – it's the greatest myth of all time what we are going to do next year."
The match script appeared to be written in Brisbane's favour from the outset when Darius Boyd latched onto a reckless cross-field pass from Shaun Kenny-Dowall to hand the Broncos the ascendancy after just 90 seconds.
That try brought the Suncorp Stadium crowd to life as the noise inside the cauldron hit a crescendo, spurring on the Broncos who opened up a 16-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Despite opening the scoring in fortuitous circumstances, Bennett was adamant that having the luxury of a week off allowed the Broncos to jump out of the barriers in impressive fashion.
"The early try was something we didn't expect but it set them back and gave us momentum straight away – it certainly gave us confidence," he said.
"We were on – we were fresh and on and that's what we can produce. The Roosters were struggling with the pace of the game early because they didn't have a week off.
"We had the benefit of the week off and we were sharp – much sharper than they were because they had a tough game last week – that's the way it works.
"We were looking good because we hadn't been knocked around from last week and had 14 days sitting at home ready to play."
The only sour note for Brisbane coming out of Friday night's win was retiring skipper Justin Hodges being placed on report for a lifting tackle on Aidan Guerra.
Both Bennett and Hodges weren't overly concerned about the 57th-minute tackle and, despite finishing the game with a lower-back complaint that required a pain-killing injection during the first half, Hodges should be able to finish his 250-game career with a grand final appearance.
Jack Reed left the field early with a corked leg, although Bennett allayed any injury fears for his side.
"Jack is alright – they are all fine," he said.
"'Hodgo' is the only one that could be in a bit of doubt with that injury, but I can't imagine he'll be in any doubt if you can just needle him to get him out there for the rest of the game.
"We'll do that again next week if we have to."