PREMIERSHIP winner Scott Sattler has dubbed Wayne Bennett “the Bart Cummings of rugby league” and backed the Broncos mastercoach to deliver another title to Brisbane.
While results from the first week of the NRL’s finals series caught a few by surprise, most notably Melbourne’s rolling of premiership favourites the Roosters, Sattler said the big game experience of both the Storm and Broncos made them September specials.
“A lot of people said there were surprised that Melbourne won, but I wasn’t one of them,” said Sattler, a premiership winner with Penrith in 2003.
“Phil Walsh, the former Adelaide Crows coach who was tragically killed earlier this year, had a saying: ‘When the going gets tough, you go back to the level of your training’.
“That is what makes Melbourne such a good team, because we know that their coach Craig Bellamy is a very hard task master.
“He sets incredibly high standards for his team at training because he knows that is what they will fall back on when they are struggling in games.
“Plus, they have so many players in that team that know how to win big games. Not just guys like Cam Smith and Cooper Cronk, but also guys like Proctor, Bromwich and Hinchcliffe, who have been around for a long time and know how to win in pressure matches.”
But Sattler says Brisbane remain his pick for the premiership simply because of one man – the legendary Bennett.
“Wayne is like the Bart Cummings of rugby league, and the finals are his Spring Carnival,” Sattler said. “He just knows how to get the best out of what he has got and what they need to do to win.
“I can’t believe people bet against Wayne at this time of year. No one knows more about winning premierships than him.
“Brisbane have a lot of big game players, but they are one of the few clubs with a big game coach. He knows how to make them win – when to push them a bit harder, and when to pull them back.
“I think the Cowboys would have beaten any other team in the competition in the first week of finals with the way they played, yet Brisbane were still good enough to hold them out.
“Brisbane’s best player is the man sitting in the grandstand. He makes that much of a difference to them, and we have seen it from the Broncos all year.
“They won’t change or slow down now. Bennett will see to that.”
Remarkably, given the power struggles going on between the states for hosting rights to the grand final and State of Origin matches, the penultimate week of the NRL season will feature no games in Sydney, as Melbourne and Brisbane have hosting rights.
For the first time since these two clubs met in 2006, the chance of a grand final featuring no NSW teams is a real possibility.