Brad Fittler says South Sydney could panic if they don’t get off to a good start to the NRL’s grand final, highlighting how Wayne Bennett’s exchange patterns could be affected.
Bennett’s Rabbitohs are the underdogs making the decision, despite beating the same opponent in the first week of the finals, Fittler said they should “go early”.
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“When they played Manly, their execution on the left wasn’t that great,” he told Nine’s NRL Sunday Footy Show.
“A few balls fell to the ground and they scored the first try, the ball bouncing off a pair of legs.
“I feel like if they don’t run early and make a few tries early they might panic a bit, while Penrith learned from last year.”
Fittler also explained how Bennett’s substitutions aim to ensure the Rabbitohs are in control in the closing minutes of a game.
“When they last played against Penrith, they had used all their substitutions until the 65th minute,” he said.
“So he put his eggs all in one basket, he just threw them all on there and they just kept going and going and going.
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“Early about 20 minutes, [Tom] Burgess shows up with Jai Arrow. He would sometimes put Benji [Marshall] for Cam Murray, and just keep them fresh, hoping they score early because at the back of the game you don’t have exchanges so it’s crucial.
“It will be interesting how Ivan takes revenge, whether he does the same and matches his exchange or whether he goes with his own formula that he uses.
“Most teams will face the 70-75 minute with about one exchange just in case. That’s going to be one of the real stories. That’s one way coaching becomes crucial.”
When it comes to the coaching battle between Cleary and Bennett, Fittler said the messages delivered to the players, especially during halftime, are also crucial.
“It’s usually not about what they say, it’s about what they don’t say,” he said.
“If you don’t talk, it gives a sense of confidence that you have faith in the players and that they can do what they have done, and they are prepared and ready. And I feel like Wayne has mastered that, and Ivan now also to a degree, where they just say less.
“If you can think of something appropriate, the calm is pretty crucial if you can just change someone’s mindset. If someone gets the upper hand, that can be very valuable, but it’s what they don’t say that makes them great trainers.”
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