Wayne Bennett has taken aim at Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga over his decision to name his first Australian side ahead of the NRL’s ninth round, the Brisbane mentor claiming it contributed to his side’s loss to Cronulla on Sunday.
Meninga broke with convention earlier this week by naming the Australian side, which included five Broncos, on Tuesday.
The Kangaroos side has traditionally been named at the conclusion of the round before the trans-Tasman Test.
Meninga, who was awarded the Kangaroos coaching role ahead of Bennett, said the move was made for logistical reasons to best get his players ready for the short turnaround to Friday’s trans-Tasman Test.
However Bennett said it wasn’t necessary.
“I’m not keen to make excuses but I was pretty disappointed when they named the team this week,” Bennett said after Brisbane’s 30-28 loss to Cronulla at Shark Park.
“I have been a long-time coach and I know the impact it has on footballers. We haven’t done that before.
“It is not the reason we lost, it is part of the reason. We were a little flat.
“It is not good policy to announce the team like that. They would rather find out now.”
Bennett said rookies like Josh McGuire, who will make his Test debut against New Zealand in Newcastle on Friday, were likely affected. It was something he anticipated in the lead-up to the round nine match.
“I sensed it yesterday,” he said.
“I kept the Australian and New Zealand players back and I told them. I knew what was going on with them. I tried to help them try and handle it a bit better mentally so they get here today and played well.
“We had Josh McGuire who has never played for Australia, Corey Parker has a lot of jerseys, but it only takes two or three guys in this competition and you are off your game.”
Kangaroos Parker, McGuire, Darius Boyd, Matt Gillett and Sam Thaiday all took the field for Brisbane against Cronulla.
Parker didn’t use his Australian selection as an excuse for the loss.
“We have a job to do,” he said.
Kangaroos prop and Sharks skipper Paul Gallen, who returns to the Australian side after a two-year absence, said the Test wasn’t on his mind ahead of the Broncos match-up.
“I thought this morning I hadn’t even thought about the Test match I was so keen to play in this game so for me no, it wasn’t an issue,” Gallen said.
“I’m sure maybe for other blokes it was.”
In round nine’s other games, injury-hit Wests Tigers beat South Sydney 30-22 on Thursday night.
Parramatta, minus Kieran Foran, beat Canterbury 20-12 on Friday night.
Penrith beat Canberra 19-18 at Bathurst on Saturday via a controversial Peter Wallace field goal.
Sydney Roosters notched their second win of the season in Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves’ comeback game, thumping Newcastle 38-0 on Saturday evening.
North Queensland defeated Manly 34-18 at Brookvale Oval on Saturday night.
The Warriors downed St George Illawarra 26-10 in Auckland on Sunday.
Gold Coast were held scoreless for the first time in their history in losing 38-0 to Melbourne.
The NRL now breaks for one week for the representative round.