Don’t write anyone off yet.
Wayne Bennett has adopted the mantra ahead of Brisbane’s NRL clash with Penrith on Friday night, insisting the premiership race is still wide open.
Sixth-placed Brisbane will try to stay in touch with runaway pacesetters Cronulla and Melbourne with a win over ex-Broncos coach Anthony Griffin’s Panthers at Suncorp Stadium.
But Bennett has dismissed the notion that the 2016 title can only be won by a top-four team.
“Finals football is all about momentum,” he said.
“I’ve seen teams play woeful three weeks out from the finals … then win a tough game in the play-offs and they are on their way.
“Don’t write anyone off yet.”
The Broncos don’t have much momentum just yet – they snapped a stretch of five losses in six games with last round’s 30-10 victory over South Sydney.
Brisbane have a good run into the finals, facing just two sides currently in the top eight – the Bulldogs and Melbourne.
And two of their remaining seven games are against lowly Sydney Roosters.
Bennett may not be taking notice of the NRL ladder but he does have one eye on the future after rival Gold Coast’s signing of Jarrod Wallace.
Bennett will look to bolster forward depth and develop youngsters Tevita Pangai, Jai Arrow, Herman Ese’ese and Joe Ofahengaue with Wallace and captain Corey Parker (retirement) departing at the end of the season.
“We didn’t want to lose him but that’s the salary cap,” Bennett said of Wallace’s Titans deal.
Brisbane will look to the market to bolster their pack – not that Bennett was giving anything away on Thursday.
“We are not going to make big statements about who we are after,” he said.
“But we are not at panic stations.”
Wallace’s departure frees up money for Brisbane to re-sign Test forward Matt Gillett and utility Kodi Nikorima.
“It is part of the juggling act,” Bennett said.
Bennett said Gillett (shoulder) would return next week.
KEY FACTS – BRONCOS v PANTHERS
* Brisbane have defeated Penrith in five of their past six matches at Suncorp Stadium
* Penrith has won three of their eight away games this season. Since the start of 2015 the Panthers have claimed just five of 20 matches away
* Penrith have won one of their past eight games in Queensland stretching back to the end of the 2011 season.