Still drained by one of the NRL’s great defensive efforts, ladder leaders Brisbane appear “vulnerable” ahead of Friday night’s clash with lowly Newcastle according to coach Wayne Bennett.
Bennett had no complaints after the Broncos’ gutsy 14-12 last round win in Melbourne where they braved 11 in-goal dropouts and made 69 tackles in their own 20m zone.
But the Brisbane master coach has not been so fond of what he has witnessed during their limited preparation ahead of Friday night’s Suncorp Stadium showdown.
Bennett hinted that Brisbane had lacked their spark at their two training sessions this week due to the short turnaround from Sunday’s gruelling win over the Storm.
In another headache, centre Jack Reed (head knock) is out, forcing a backline reshuffle in a side already without Queensland backrower Sam Thaiday (rested).
“We have been better,” Bennett said of their training effort this week.
Sitting pretty on top of the NRL ladder with one State of Origin match left has done little to settle Bennett’s anxiety ahead of the Knights clash.
Bennett believed Brisbane could not afford to drop their guard against a Knights side described as “embarrassing” by Newcastle skipper Kurt Gidley last week.
Newcastle led by 10 on two occasions but conceded three tries in seven minutes to lose 30-28 to Cronulla last round.
“They have had a pretty rough eight to 10 weeks now so they will be wanting to get it right,” Bennett said of second last Newcastle (5-9 record).
“We are a bit vulnerable right now.
“It is a game we have to make sure we have our heads on our shoulders … not just turn up and go through the motions.”
Bennett admitted he was “pleasantly surprised” Brisbane (11-3) were on top despite his stars juggling Origin duty.
“We have to come out the other side, it’s still not over for us, but in two or three weeks we should be clear of the (Origin) hangover,” he said.
“Being able to rest players is going to help us enormously.”
Justin Hodges and Corey Parker were rested for Brisbane’s win over Melbourne while Parker was also given a break in the wake of Origin I.
Meanwhile, an 18-strong Knights squad including Jarrod Mullen (foot) flew out for Brisbane on Thursday.
Forward Jeremy Smith (sternum) and half Tyrone Roberts (ankle) didn’t make the cut.
– Brisbane have suffered just one loss in nine games against Newcastle since 2011, and have enjoyed nine wins from 13 games against the Knights at Suncorp Stadium
– Brisbane sit on top of the ladder after round 15, a position they have not occupied so late in a season since 2005
– Newcastle led the competition after four rounds but are now just one loss away from potentially dropping to last with just one win in their last 10 games
– The second last Knights have won just two of their five away matches this season, both in Queensland
– Brisbane’s attack is the best in the competition, averaging the most points (26.6 per game), tries (4.6 per game) and line breaks (7 per game) since round 10