INJURY COMEBACK: Andrew McCullough of the Brisbane Broncos in action.
INJURY COMEBACK: Andrew McCullough of the Brisbane Broncos in action. DAN PELED

Bennett not pressing the panic button over Broncos

IT TAKES a lot more than a few losses to rattle Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, if that is even possible.

While everyone is talking about the form of Brisbane’s halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford and the lack of involvement of speedster James Roberts, the club’s master coach says the team is exactly where he expected it would be towards the end of a draining State of Origin series.

Brisbane, now back in fifth place, faces a serious character test against second-placed Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium tonight with the Storm having a fantastic record playing at the ground.

“We’re in a great position, we’re not out of the competition by any stretch of the imagination,” said the seven-time premiership-winning coach.

“We’re about where we want to be, we’re just not consistent enough during the rep season, that’s where the little problems all started.

“In all my years of experience, this is not an unusual position for us.

“I realised this was going to happen to us. They (players) have priorities and sometimes they can have them in the wrong place. It’s hard backing up.

“Cronulla was the first game. They all knew it was a test and we haven’t been much better since.”

Brisbane has slipped from first during the Origin period and has lost four of its past five games, including last weekend’s 40-14 hammering from the Bulldogs.

The worrying signs for Brisbane is its defence, which carried it to last year’s grand final and was so good at the start of the year, but appears to have broken down.

For a Broncos side to leak 30 points in three of its past five games is way out of character.

The Broncos are clearly down on confidence.

But as Bennett knows, those things can be turned around with a win over Melbourne.

Bennett has been in this position many times before, including 2006 when his Broncos stormed home over the closing rounds to eventually beat Melbourne in the grand final.

He is pleased to have hooker Andrew McCullough back from injury for the blockbuster clash because of his defence in and around the ruck and because of his ability to get the ball to his playmakers when they want it.

“I’m pretty pleased he is back, to be honest. He’s an unsung hero in our team; he is pretty valuable to our team. You don’t always realise what you don’t have until they’re not playing,” Bennett said.

“The makings of a good dummy half is they get the ball to the key players when they want it.”

Jordan Kahu, meanwhile, failed a fitness test and has been replaced at left centre by the versatile Alex Glenn.

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