By STEVE MASCORD
WAYNE Bennett’s Brisbane Broncos charges say there are foreboding signs for Australia as the English squad touches down in Perth.
Bennett’s northern hemisphere-based stars landed in Western Australia late Friday local time in preparation for their World Cup warm-up match against a composite developing states side in a week.
While there has been much debate about some of the selections, Australia and Brisbane utility forward Matt Gillett says the side reflects one of Bennett’s key strengths – loyalty.
“He got away with that squad last year at the Four Nations and they had that Test halfway through this year as well,” Gillett told rugby-league.com
“He’s picked a similar squad to the one he had in the Four Nations. That group, the more they’re together they better they’ll be.
“I think he’s done a good job with them so far. Keeping those players together and building a culture is probably something he’s trying to do.
“He put all that in place last year when he took over and he’s going to stick to it until his role is over there.”
Bennett told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail on Friday he had not decided if he would seek reappointment after the tournament.
Departing Broncos scrum-half Ben Hunt said: “New Zealand have been good over the last few years, they’ve beaten Australia a couple of times.
“You look at England, they’ve got a great side I think. Even Tonga and Samoa now, the teams they’re putting together….
“If they come out and fire, they could upset anyone. Every game you play, especially when you get to the finals, you’ve got to be at your best.“
Gillett eve gave an insight into how the Aussies will be preparing for the tournament opener against England on October 27.
“I’ve only come up against them once – last year in the Four Nations,” he said.
“They’re a big physical pack and that first 20 is pretty brutal and pretty intense as well.
“Once we do come up against them, it’s just trying to slow that momentum down for them at the start of the game.
“It’s the first 20 they come out firing.
“They’ve got some big hitters as well. That plays on your mind a bit too.
“But it’s just about doing those little things right at the start of the game and hopefully we can contain them in the first 20. If we don’t, things could go pretty bad.
“They could get a lead on you. It’s very important, that first 20 against a big pack.”
Hunt is joining St George Illawarra next year and says: “James Graham, Gareth Widdop. If Mal (Meninga) picks me I’d be excited to play against those boys.
“They’re excellent. Gareth Widdop – five-eighth of the year. Probably had his best year, easily, I think.
“I’m excited to get down and play with him and James Graham – I think everyone has seen how passionate he is about the game .
“All he wants to do is win and he’ll do anything he can for his team to do that. When the Dragons finally signed him, I was pretty excited.”
Things got a bit awkward when coaches Meninga and Bennett were involved in some public banter during last year’s Four Nations in England.
Gillett said: “I didn’t pay too much attention to it but obviously they’re two great coaches and they’ve been around for a long time. That banter, I think that’s healthy.
“it’s part of footy, of rugby league, in that environment.”