Coach Wayne Bennett during the South Sydney Captains run ahead of their final with the Roosters. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Coach Wayne Bennett during the South Sydney Captains run ahead of their final with the Roosters. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Meninga: Bennett can lift Bunnies again

THERE are not many coaches better than Wayne Bennett when it comes to finals footy.

His ability to get the most out of players when it matters is extraordinary, his record in big games is formidable.

I am expecting a coaching masterclass from Bennett and a commanding performance from Souths when they clash with the Sea Eagles on Friday night.

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The return of captain Sam Burgess from suspension can also not be understated. He will make a huge difference to the Bunnies, particularly through the middle of the park where he leads by example.

He spearheads their go-forward and inspires all the others around him to ensure there are quick play the balls, which allow halves Cody Walker, Adam Reynolds and the game's best runner out of dummy-half, Damien Cook, to take advantage.

Last week against the Roosters they were always on the back foot after being hammered early and the game got away from them, going down 30-6.

The Rabbitohs weren't that bad. The Roosters were just so sharp, their execution was highly skilled.

Cook shapes as South Sydney’s key man. AAP Image/Joel Carrett.
Cook shapes as South Sydney’s key man. AAP Image/Joel Carrett.

But having Sam back as their leader against Manly changes things. He will be a huge asset.

I also like the strike power Souths possess out wide, with Maroons Origin star Dane Gagai returning from injury to chime into an already dangerous backline.

On paper you would think Souths are going to win this one.

But stranger things have happened. Manly coach Des Hasler has shown he is a master of finals footy in his own right. The Sea Eagles are certainly understrength and their best chance of victory will be to win ugly.

They will want to get Souths into a scrap in the hope it will cause them to lose discipline. Manly will try to make the upset the flow of the play the ball, apply enormous pressure to kickers and force the Rabbitohs to make silly errors.

Can Manly summon another supreme effort? Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images.
Can Manly summon another supreme effort? Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images.

The Eels were sensational to send the Broncos packing from the finals with a 58-0 flogging but can they do it again on Saturday?

Can they execute the plan they implemented so well against the Broncos last week? Will it have the same impact against the Storm?

The Eels played a very physical style against the Broncos, they ran hard, made plenty of post-contact metres and won quick play-the-balls.

 

Their offloading was enormous and the movement off their second phase, the best in the NRL, tore the Broncos apart.

The Broncos though allowed them to do it, they weren't at their best.

Coming up against a do-or-die Melbourne Storm side at AAMI Park is a whole new ball game.

It will be very difficult for the Eels to implement that style of play against a really committed Storm side, who will come into the game with a great do-or-die attitude.

The Storm have been the best defensive team all year and they will show that this weekend.

Melbourne will be smarting after their loss to Canberra. AAP Image/Scott Barbour.
Melbourne will be smarting after their loss to Canberra. AAP Image/Scott Barbour.

It should be a close game, but stating the obvious, the Eels must play out the full 80 minutes or Melbourne will do enough to win or if not prepared, win comfortably.

The Eels can take heart from what the Raiders were able to do last week against the Storm. They beat them at their own game. Their defensive efforts, particularly around the middle of the park were sensational.

When the Storm achieved momentum, they still managed to shut them down by working together defensively. The Storm only scored a try through a kick.

The Eels' style of play is really entertaining, and it does work against most sides.

In fact, it's the next evolution of attack and teams will follow. But I'm not sure it will be enough against the best defensive side in the competition.

And unlike the Broncos last weekend, the Storm will be at their best, they're professional and they know if they lose there is no tomorrow and will take that seriously.

They are driven after last years grand final.

LISTEN! Matty, Finchy and Kenty address "Pokies-gate" and the Broncos self-combustion, Joey Leilua's fireworks mishap, and how Wayne Bennett and Des Hasler know exactly how to get the best out of their individuals. PLUS, the Roosters had a sleepover at the SCG?

 
News Corp Australia


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