Sport

Hook has no ill will towards Broncos

Panthers players Nathan Cleary (right) and Peter Wallace (left) with coach Anthony Griffin.
Panthers players Nathan Cleary (right) and Peter Wallace (left) with coach Anthony Griffin. PAUL MILLER

IT'S a record the envy of every other coach in the league.

But a frustrated Anthony Griffin is not concerned with the fact he's won nine of 11 previous encounters with Wayne Bennett - or about his history at Brisbane.

"I'm only worried about one record, and that's tomorrow," Griffin said on Thursday as his Penrith Panthers prepared for their cut-throat semi-final clash with Bennett's Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

"It's like any other coach, you've got a lot of respect for them and I've got no issue there, I never have. (I'm) just looking forward to the game and trying to get ready."

The pair first went head to head in 2011 when Griffin was in charge at Brisbane and Bennett was at the helm of the Newcastle Knights.

Bennett, of course, replaced Griffin at the end of the 2014 season when deciding to return to Red Hill.

"I've obviously spent a lot of time there and been over this a million times. I've got a lot of good friends in the team," said the man known as Hook.

"But it's just a real big game for us as a club. We've been through a lot this year and been really resilient and got ourselves to this point.

"So I don't ever think of it from a personal point of view. I think our club's earned the right to be in the game and we're really looking forward to the game."

It will be the pair's first match-up in a final, with the Panthers having made the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Penrith will be the rank outsiders but buoyed by their controversial elimination final win over the Manly Sea Eagles and the fact the Broncos have leaked 24 points or more in the past two games, including in last week's qualifying final loss to the Sydney Roosters.

 

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett gives instructions during a training session.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett gives instructions during a training session. ALBERT PEREZ

Asked to put himself in Bennett's shoes and critique the Broncos' defence, Griffin replied: "I'm not really sure. I wish I had Wayne at this press conference.

"There's a lot of questions for Wayne. I'm happy if you want to talk about Penrith."

The big talking point, however, is the absence again of Broncos skipper Darius Boyd with a hamstring strain.

Kodi Nikorima will start at fullback, with Benji Marshall to wear the No.7 jumper.

"He did the session but he doesn't feel he will be at his best," Bennett said. "It is important for him to be at his best in the position he plays.

"I will start with Kodi at fullback. I am confident enough we can overcome his loss.

"I would rather Darius think he can perform at his best than letting everybody down.

"He just wasn't running at full speed."

But Griffin said his side would not be underestimating the hosts, especially under Bennett.

"They've got Ben Hunt and (Anthony Milford). If the team's not going well, they can just find some points out of nothing like you would've seen last week," he said.

"But the biggest thing about playing Brisbane is that they're never going to give up. They're never going to give you anything easy."

Topics:  anthony griffin brisbane broncos nrl finals penrith panthers wayne bennett

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