Penrith coach Anthony Griffin has described his relationship with former mentor Wayne Bennett “sweet as a nut” and is adamant he holds no ill-feeling towards his old NRL club.
Ahead of his first match coaching against Brisbane on Saturday night, Griffin dodged questions on his time at Red Hill and had even less to say about the man who replaced him.
Asked what his relationship was like with Bennett, Griffin said: “Sweet as a nut, mate.”
Pressed again on whether he had since spoken with the seven-time premiership winning coach, he replied: “What are you, writing a diary? I ain’t got no issue at all. I’ve got a great job with a great club here.”
Bennett was also short with reporters when asked about his one-time protege, saying he didn’t want to discuss the past.
“We are not playing him, we’re playing Penrith. There’s been no talk of him,” Bennett said.
But the first-year Panthers coach had no hesitation in labelling the undefeated Broncos the benchmark of the competition, and told his team to forget their current gulf in form.
The footy gods have continued to desert the Panthers in 2016, with Dean Whare this week ruled out for up to six weeks with a calf injury, and Waqa Blake in major doubt with a cork.
Blake would be their third casualty in two games, his injury following that of star hooker James Segeyaro who broke his arm in round one and is out for two months and captain Matt Moylan, who has yet to appear this season.
On top of that, the Panthers have lost their first two games in the final two minutes of each match.
“They’re the benchmark in the competition. They haven’t lost since going within ten seconds of winning a grand final last year,” Griffin said of the Broncos.
“They deserve to be in the position they are. From our end, we’ve just got to forget about them for a moment and make sure we improve on what we’re trying to do.”
Griffin admitted young gun Te Maire Martin had trained with the squad this week but is unlikely to make his debut against the Broncos, with Tyrone Peachey set to stay at six.
Should Blake be ruled out, Isaah Yeo will switch to the centres with either James Fisher-Harris or Leilani Latu coming onto the bench.
For the Broncos, Greg Eden comes into the side for the injured Corey Oates.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Since upsetting South Sydney in round 17 last season, Penrith have won just two of 11 matches, with both wins coming against the struggling Warriors and Knights.
* Penrith have not lost three straight to start the season since opening with eight defeats in 2002.
* Brisbane have opened the scoring with a penalty goal in four of their past six matches.