Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has hinted he will put his stars in cotton wool in the lead up to the NRL finals after claiming the NRL minor premiership “no big deal”.
The Sydney Roosters leapfrogged the Broncos at the top of the ladder with a 12-10 victory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
While the Broncos dropped to second, they will be looking at the upside after they came through the encounter unscathed.
The Roosters’ premiership hopes took a dive when Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (ACL) was ruled out for the rest of the year while Mitchell Pearce (hamstring) will miss several weeks.
On the same night across the ditch in New Zealand, fellow title threats North Queensland were hit with a sledgehammer blow when Michael Morgan (ankle) and James Tamou (neck) suffered potentially season-ending injuries.
While all three sides sit on 36 points, it is the Broncos who now have the upper hand with a clean bill of health and a full roster.
Bennett said he put no emphasis on where his side finished on the table – as long as it was in the top four.
He said a top two spot – which guarantees a home final in the first week – held no great attraction to him, pointing to their strong away record this year.
The Broncos finish off the regular rounds with another top four showdown with South Sydney and a Thursday night blockbuster against Melbourne.
“Regardless of what happens now, we’re one, two or three. That’s where we want to be – in the top four,” Bennett said.
“We set ourselves to be one, two, three or four. We just wanted to be there. We’re there. It’s two games to go so we’re not going to jeopardise any player that could do with a week off.”
Bennett described the Roosters loss as a good lesson for some of his young charges after they were exposed to finals intensity a fortnight early.
“(The Roosters) were premiers two years ago, they were minor premiers last year and they’re a quality side – this is the third year they’ve been at the top of their game,” he said.
“The Broncos haven’t been there for six years – the last time was 2011 when Darren (Lockyer) got injured.
“So there are a lot of players who haven’t experienced this type of stuff.
“That game was quick out there tonight. If you haven’t played Origin, you don’t know about it or what’s coming up in the next month.”