Bennett begins mind games with Roosters
THE mind games appear to have already begun in the NRL title race with Wayne Bennett hinting rivals Sydney Roosters may struggle to regain their mojo after the demanding State of Origin period.
South Sydney mentor Bennett admitted the NRL ladder may look like it has sorted out the early championship favourites after nine rounds - the ladder-leading Roosters, his own Rabbitohs and a rampant Melbourne.
Yet Bennett said past experience at former club Brisbane had taught him that the title contenders could only be assessed after this year's five-week Origin season - and he predicted the Roosters may be found wanting.
The Roosters top the table after their 30-24 Magic Round win over fourth-placed Canberra in Brisbane, cruising to an 8-1 record.
The all-star Roosters (105 points) narrowly sit ahead of the Rabbitohs (97pts) on differential after South Sydney drew the curtain on Magic Round with a 32-16 triumph over a never say die North Queensland on Sunday.
The Storm sit third (7-2) after bouncing back to their best with a 64-10 romp over Parramatta on Saturday night.
The three sides have looked a class above this year but Bennett was not about to jump to any conclusions just yet.
"The points are going to tell you that but I don't think that is the case yet," he said.
"Maybe we will see in two months' time where we are all sitting, Origin is a great leveller."
Bennett then seemed to try and plant a seed of doubt in red-hot favourites Roosters' minds by claiming Origin may yet sort them out.
"Roosters for example are going to be hit pretty hard by Origin, you can lose your momentum," he said.
"I can't tell you how many times at the Broncos we were leading the competition at Origin time and came back when it was all over and running third or fourth in the comp.
"Some years we never got our mojo back."
Bennett even claimed he was not sure what to make of the Rabbitohs' fifth straight win inspired by their NSW hooker Damien Cook.
The Rabbitohs rake set up three first-half tries to gift them an early 18-0 lead before burrowing over for his own four pointer in the 50th minute to ice the result.
"I don't know whether I am happy about what they did or unhappy," he said.
"Wins are great but you know you are close to your next loss if you don't sort some stuff out and fortunately for us there were only small patches but they were there.
"We were up 18-0 and then we got careless and sloppy and got bored with what we were doing."