Not known for his charm offensives, Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has surprised by talking up NRL preliminary final rivals Sydney Roosters as the competition’s most talented team.
The Broncos and Roosters have shared wins this year, but the Tri-colours beat Bennett’s team in their most recent showdown in round 24, and the master coach is all too aware of their ability.
“They have probably got the most talent of any team in the competition man-for-man,” he said.
“You can’t be concerned about just one.
“I am talking about their players individually across the board, they have probably got the most quality players in the competition.”
Bennett even saluted opposing coach Trent Robinson ahead of Friday night’s Suncorp Stadium grand final qualifier, a man he knows well thanks to their roles on the NRL Rules Committee.
“He’s calm, knows what he is on about, served a pretty good apprenticeship which is half the battle,” he said.
“I think he’s a coach of the future.”
The Roosters can expect a fiery welcome from the Broncos faithful at a sold-out Suncorp Stadium, especially returning halfback Mitchell Pearce.
NSW No.7 Pearce returns to the venue where he endured the Blues’ record 52-6 State of Origin loss in July that handed Queensland their ninth shield in 10 years.
Overall Pearce has a horror 0-6 Origin record at Suncorp Stadium.
But Bennett almost stood up for Pearce when asked if that horror night would haunt the Roosters No.7 on Friday night.
“You’d have to ask him,” he said.
“(But) fully fit he is very competitive, probably their leader – he brings all those qualities.”
Broncos backrower Corey Parker believed Pearce’s return would ensure the Roosters arrived at Suncorp Stadium with confidence.
“In your big games you want your strongest 17 and he’s obviously part of that,” he said.
“He is a leader for them, an integral part for years.
“I am sure they will be confident now that they got him back.”
Parker marvelled at how Roosters young gun Jackson Hastings had stepped up in Pearce’s absence.
“I thought Jackson Hastings did a great job and filled that void,” he said.
“He’s certainly grabbed my attention. I thought they adjusted really well (without Pearce).”