Bennett unimpressed by Test squad announcements
Master coach Wayne Bennett has questioned the decision to bring forward the announcement of the Kangaroos squad, admitting some of his Broncos players were thinking ahead to the Test on May 6 instead of focussing on Sunday's game against the Sharks.
The Australian squad had traditionally been announced after the final game of the round had been played leading into the mid-season Test, but it was moved forward this year in a bid to help galvanise the squad.
The Broncos coach is no stranger to the role of Australian mentor after leading the Kangaroos on 16 occasions over two separate stints in the top job and was clearly unimpressed about Tuesday's announcement.
Five Broncos (Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Darius Boyd, Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire) were picked by Australian coach Mal Meninga, while Adam Blair, Alex Glenn, Jordan Kahu and Kodi Nikorima were selected in the Kiwis squad by Broncos assistant coach Stephen Kearney.
Bennett refused to blame the premature naming of the squad for his side's 30-28 loss to the Sharks, but was convinced that it had definitely played a part.
The Broncos appeared distracted on Sunday afternoon as they fell behind 28-6 at the break in their worst half of the season before rallying late to eventually go down by just two points.
"I'm not going to make excuses today but I was pretty disappointed when they announced the team this week," Bennett said after the game.
"I've been a long-time coach and I just know the impact it has on guys. We haven't done that before and it's just not good; particularly for guys like Josh McGuire who has never played for Australia before.
"Corey (Broncos captain Corey Parker) has got a lot of jerseys now but for guys like him (McGuire) it only takes two or three guys to be off a little bit in this competition and you're under a fair bit of pressure.
"It's not the reason we lost here today but it's part of the fact of why we probably were a little bit flat."
Bennett admitted he was concerned about some of his players' mindsets leading into the Cronulla game and was forced to hold a private meeting with the international representatives on Saturday to help them refocus.
"I kept the Australian and New Zealand players back yesterday in the room and I told them I knew what was going on with them," the current England coach said.
"I tried to help them a little bit with how they can handle it better mentally so they could get here today and play well. It's just not good policy to announce teams – they'd rather find out tonight right now."
Parker, Thaiday and Kahu all scored on the weekend, while Boyd threw the final pass for three tries in a sign the players mightn't have been as distracted as their coach had feared.
Tuesday's announcement might have affected some of his less-experienced teammates against the Sharks on Sunday afternoon, but Broncos skipper Parker said it didn't excuse their performance.
"At the end of the day we're all professionals in what we do," the Kangaroos lock said.
"I don't think it's got anything to do with what happened during the week but everyone has a different opinion."
Sharks skipper Paul Gallen probably had more reason than most to be distracted by Friday night's Test after earning a recall to the national side after missing out on selection in 2015.
Instead, the 31-Test veteran admitted he had paid little attention to the Test leading into Sunday's game, and believes that honed-in focus allowed him to produce the sort of football that saw him named in Meninga's side.
"I thought it might have been and I found myself in the video session here yesterday and I was just so keen and intent to play the Broncos that I actually thought to myself this morning that I haven't even thought about the Test match," Gallen revealed.
"I think I showed that by the way I played today. I was probably a bit surprised by that as well. I thought I would have been thinking about it more than what I was but I was really keen to get the win today and fortunately we did."