Milestones may have been the last thing on Wayne Bennett’s mind but Brisbane still celebrated his 800th NRL game, capping a tough week for their coach with a 18-10 win over an unlucky Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium.
Bennett reckoned he hadn’t even thought about his remarkable landmark before the match with his future up in the air after the Broncos confirmed they were pursuing off contract Melbourne mentor Craig Bellamy.
But the Broncos clearly had not forgotten, rallying behind their besieged coach to produce a three-tries-to-one win in front of a 21,555-strong crowd.
It marked Bennett’s 496th win of his career in his 32nd season.
“Wayne has done a lot for this club. He basically built it,” Brisbane skipper Darius Boyd said.
“Wayne wouldn’t mention it (milestone) but we spoke about it as a (player) group and I am really pleased we got the win for him.”
The victory appeared to have come at a price after NSW hopeful James Roberts limped off in the 61st minute with an Achilles injury.
But Bennett said the centre would be available for Blues selection ahead of next week’s NSW team announcement for June 6’s State of Origin opener.
“I am sure whatever pain he’s got today will go away very quickly (if NSW pick him),” Bennett said.
The limelight is the last place media shy Bennett wants to be at the best of times but the 68-year-old could not avoid all eyes being on him on Thursday night.
Besides his remarkable milestone, Bennett is under pressure to remain at Brisbane for the first time after it emerged this week the NRL club was hoping to poach Bellamy.
But the Broncos team showed they were still playing for Bennett, lifting in the seven-time premiership winning mentor’s big game to seal their fourth win in five matches.
Bennett was typically tightlipped about his milestone again after the match but talked up his Broncos side who keep winning without Test forwards Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire and Kiwi back-rower Alex Glenn.
“It was probably the best we defended. They just kept turning up,” Bennett said.
Parramatta slumped to their 10th loss in 12 games.
Brisbane led 16-2 by the 43rd minute but the Eels threatened a fightback when winger George Jennings scored a 90m intercept try in the 52nd minute.
However, Parramatta’s fortunes on Thursday night – or lack thereof – were best summed up when Michael Jennings bombed not one but two tries by dropping the ball with the line in sight.
And Bevan French’s 75th minute try was disallowed due to a forward pass.
“We are disappointed for our fans and sponsors but the effort is there – the execution we just need to tidy up a touch,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.