Bennett hits back at Jennings' 'cheap talk'
Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has hit back at Parramatta star Michael Jennings, labelling the Eels centre's comments as "cheap" after the 29-year-old called out Adam Blair and Josh McGuire for "dirty play".
Jennings came out firing after the Eels' Round 21 win over the Broncos, pointing the finger at the two Brisbane forwards for two acts that he believed were foul play.
The first occurrence had terrible ramifications, with Blair diving at the legs of Jennings before collecting teammate Andrew McCullough who suffered a season-ending knee injury.
In the second instance, McGuire, who is blind in one eye, stepped on the leg of Parramatta captain Tim Mannah, with the Broncos lock claiming he could not see Mannah due to his disability.
Although Blair was penalised, McGuire went unpunished, and it is clear Bennett saw both incidents as accidental, defending his players to the media on Friday.
Bennett scoffed at suggestions his enforcers needed to change the way they played, instead lauding McGuire for his great form this season with sight in only one eye.
"That's just cheap talk. The game is full of it now. It's remarkable [Josh plays when he's blind in one eye]," Bennett said.
Both of Brisbane's hard-nosed forwards will be vital against the Gold Coast Titans this week as the Broncos try and cement a top-four position.
Bennett's men have received a boost to their chances of securing victory, with Corey Oates making his return on the wing after beating a serious staph infection.
Oates has not played since Round 16 and Bennett cracked a rare smile at the thought of having his representative winger back in the side.
"He's back a week earlier than we thought. He's passed all the tests and everybody is happy with him so we'll get on with it," Bennett said.
"We've got one major injury but outside of that we are in pretty good shape."
That one major injury is to McCullough who faces seven to eight months on the sidelines, with both his MCL and ACL tearing in the collision with Blair.
Ben Hunt will fill the void at hooker and Bennett has complete confidence in him as he makes the switch from halfback to No.9.
"Ben's our best option. He's played 100-odd games at the club and he was hooker at one stage coming off the interchange bench. That's where he plied his trade so he has plenty of experience," he said.
"He's a tremendous runner of the ball so let's hope he can do something for us."
There is no doubt Hunt will do the job for the Broncos, but it will take time for him to adjust to the new role and the added workload that McCullough got through each week.
McCullough regularly played for 80 minutes, something Bennett believes Hunt will have to build up to.
"Probably not [80 minutes]. I think he'll get there in five weeks but initially we probably won't get 80 minutes out of him," he said.
"He'll defend in the middle. He's a strong defender. We'll just have to change the interchange numbers a bit and be a bit more flexible.
"Some guys might have to play a little bit longer in one or two positions but it's nothing major."
The Broncos will kick-off their match against the Titans at 5.30pm on Saturday at CBUS Super Stadium.