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Bennett laughs off talk of losing NRL aura

NZN 1/03/2017 Laine Clark

According to Wayne Bennett, Brisbane won't be at their best for a little while yet.

But the master coach has laughed off speculation he has lost his aura ahead of Thursday night's NRL season opener against defending premiers Cronulla.

The knives are already out for the seven-time premiership-winning coach before a ball has been kicked.

Reports have claimed Bennett has started to lose player support at Red Hill and, at 67, is in danger of "withering on the coaching vine".

Halfback Ben Hunt's decision to sign a lucrative five-year St George Illawarra deal from 2018 was seen by critics as a sure-fire sign Bennett had begun to lose his aura in the players' eyes.

"I think the terminology for that these days is white noise," Bennett said of the speculation.

Asked if he had lost his aura, Bennett joked: "I have been looking for it.

"(New captain) Darius (Boyd) lost his suit last week ... I asked him if he could find it in his suit for me.

"I don't know where it has gone."

However, Bennett did warn fans that they would need to be patient if they wanted to see Brisbane's best this season.

The Broncos begin life without retired skipper Corey Parker against the Sharks.

Test prop Josh McGuire will take over 347-game Parker's No.13 jersey with former Newcastle forward Korbin Sims in the front row in a reshuffled pack.

And in a new-look backline, ex-North Queensland player Tautau Moga is at left centre, inside Corey Oates, while Kiwi international Jordan Kahu has edged out former Gold Coast outside back David Mead on the right wing.

"We have good size and speed. We are optimistic we can play some good football," Bennett said.

"(But) we won't be at our best for a little while yet."

A scrappy Brisbane were defeated 27-18 last month by Warrington in the UK, becoming the first NRL club to lose a World Club Series game.

It was not a good look for the NRL glamour club who have not won a title since 2006 - their longest premiership drought.

"It was a timely reminder for us," Bennett said of the shock pre-season result.

"But they (Broncos players) have been good since they have come home.

"And sometimes, you have to give credit to the opposition.

"It was 54 minutes before they (Warrington) made their first handling error. They were on their game - we were a little bit off."

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