Panthers vs Rabbitohs : Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler have warned the Panthers not to “underestimate” Wayne Bennett’s mind games ahead of Saturday’s do-or-die clash.
Earlier in the week it was revealed that Bennett had a handshake deal with former Panthers GM Phil Gould to head to the foot of the mountains, only for the club to choose Ivan Cleary instead.
Panthers chair Dave O’Neill lit a fuse when he told The Sydney Morning Herald that “there wasn’t one board member who was interested at all” in Bennett.Bennett denied the claims, calling them “absolutely garbage” but regardless it’s set the stage for a mouth-watering clash between the two clubs.
Johns believes Bennett’s abrupt response was an attempt to hit the spotlight back into the Panthers’ direction and Cleary’s Panthers “can’t underestimate” the mastercoach’s mind games.
“Putting the pressure off his team and putting it on the Panthers,” he told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth.
“He’s done it for 40 years.”He’s a pretty intelligent bloke. You can’t underestimate him,” Fittler added.
“He loves the games. He probably stays up at night thinking about the games. Not the actual game being played but the mental games going on.
“I can’t wait until Origin – the games he’s going to try and play. It’s going to be awesome.”
It comes after Bennett made an odd confession last weekend that he’s “hardly looked” at the Panthers.To be honest, they are the team I’ve watched least all season,” he said.
“We played them early in the season and haven’t come across them again.
“I’ll be honest, we’ve hardly looked at them.”
Mind games or not, it didn’t rattle Cleary who saw straight through it.
“I interpret that as he’s been playing you guys [the media] for so long and you’re still falling for it,’’ Cleary said to media on Friday.