Top-four finish not crucial: Bennett
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has declared that failing to finish in the top four need not be a death knell to his side's premiership chances, insisting momentum is more important going into September.
History shows that no premiership winner in the 18-year history of the NRL has come from outside the top four finishers at the end of the regular season, with only six grand finalists coming from fifth or lower over that period.
The Broncos' gritty 12-8 win over the Dragons last Thursday night was just their third since Round 10 and on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium they face a Parramatta team that absolutely refuses to stop winning games despite their season of turmoil.
A top-four finish is not out of reach for the Broncos who currently sit in sixth position but they are now reliant on the Bulldogs and Raiders dropping games even if they were to knock over the Eels, Bulldogs, Storm and Roosters in the final four weeks.
When Brisbane last won a premiership in 2006 they fought back from five consecutive losses to win their final three games of the regular season and take momentum into the finals series and Bennett sees no reason why their position on the ladder would influence their performance come finals time.
"It's doable," Bennett said of winning the Telstra Premiership. "If you finish outside the top four you've still got to play four games straight.
"I'd rather have momentum than be in the top four. If you're in the top four and are not playing well then it's a big issue for you.
"Momentum is everything. If you are playing well and playing consistently well over a period of weeks that's what you're trying to strive for as a coach.
"Where you finish after that doesn't matter because you think you can do anything.
"If you look at the Cowboys last year they finished in the top four but at the end of the day they had to play four games straight to win the grand final and they aimed up in every one of those."
Parramatta's hopes of playing finals football all but evaporated when they were stripped of 12 competition points for breaches of the salary cap yet they have won the same number of games this year as the Broncos.
After three straight losses they bounced back to defeat Manly 10-9 last Friday night and Bennett was full of praise for the way Eels coach Brad Arthur and his players had put the loss of four key players in Kieran Foran, Corey Norman, Nathan Peats and Junior Paulo and all other off-field distractions to one side.
"I think he's done a remarkable job there and the players to their credit have all jumped in as well," Bennett said of Arthur, who extended his tenure at the Eels during the week.
"To lose your halfback and your five-eighth and both very, very talented players let alone everything else... It's been a great effort by them."
Parramatta have been victorious in three of their past five matches against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium and Bennett is wary of what their bit-part team is still capable of producing.
"They've got a pretty handy forward pack, pretty aggressive and run pretty hard, and they've got a handy backline with Michael Jennings in the centres and a good fullback," Bennett said.
"We expect Parramatta to be tough and desperate here to play well and we've got answer that and be on our game ourselves.
"It's really important we back it up. We've got to put a line in the sand right now and start to back some games up."