Wayne Bennett has credited a loss to the Sydney Roosters for sparking Brisbane’s NRL premiership tilt that has surprised even the master coach.
The Roosters looked to have gained more from their round-24 clash with Brisbane after digging deep to counter the loss of Mitchell Pearce (hamstring) and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (knee) to win 12-10 in Sydney.
However, Bennett pinpointed that match as their season’s turning point ahead of Friday night’s NRL preliminary final clash against the same opposition at Suncorp Stadium.
Bennett admitted he did not initially believe a rebuilding Brisbane would be a title threat when he regained the reins this season after seven years away.
However, he had no doubts after their tight away loss to the Roosters in August and the five-day camp in Sydney that followed it.
“Those five days we spent in Sydney was the making of our season so hopefully we get the benefit of that tomorrow night,” he said.
“I know what it meant for them.
“When they came out the other side they realised what was in front of them but also what they could deliver.
“Sometimes you lose but you win.”
As a result, Bennett believed the Broncos wouldn’t lose another tight one against the Roosters on Friday night, even if opposition halfback Mitchell Pearce is back on board.
“If there’s only a few points in it with a couple of minutes to go I know which side I want to be on,” Bennett said.
“We are definitely an 80-minute team. I want to be in that (tight) position.”
But asked if he thought Brisbane would be hosting a grand final qualifier this year, Bennett said: “I probably didn’t.
“I wanted to be here but didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”
The Roosters are 2012 champions and minor premiers the past three seasons.
In contrast Brisbane are hoping to book their first grand final berth since 2006 – the club’s longest drought.
But Bennett still considered six-time premiers Brisbane his benchmark, saying he had never been tempted to monitor the Roosters’ success.
“The Broncos have been the benchmark of this competition for a long time,” Bennett said.
“We have got our standards, we know what works for us.
“They have done extremely well the Roosters but it’s not as if we thought ‘that’s where we have to be’.”
Brisbane will also be hoping to give retiring captain Justin Hodges a fond farewell to Suncorp Stadium in his 250th game.
Brisbane are back from a week off earned for their 16-12 first finals win over North Queensland.
The Roosters have won six of their past seven grand final qualifiers – Brisbane just one of their past five.
The Broncos have claimed their past four home finals.
The winner plays Saturday night’s Melbourne-North Queensland victor in next week’s grand final in Sydney.