South Sydney‘s 46-20 thrashing of the Newcastle Knights had Rabbitohs fans smiling – even drawing an uncharacteristically smiley press conference from coach Wayne Bennett.
And why wouldn‘t he be happy with his side bouncing back from a 14-0 deficit to pile on 46 unanswered points before a late consolation try sealed a week two match up with the Parramatta Eels on Saturday night.
Watch the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals on Kayo. Every game before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand with no-ad breaks during play. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
But the legendary coach‘s mood has darkened after the elephant in the room of the Sam Burgess drama was brought up.
Burgess stood down from his role with Fox Sports and as a Souths development coach after damning allegations were reported by The Australian during the week.
Burgess has strongly denied the allegations.
Bennett had to answer questions during the week on the reporting, but it didn‘t appear to affect his side as they piled on the points in a stunning performance.
Despite a slow start that saw the Rabbitohs starring down a 14-0 scoreline after just 11 minutes, Bennett was asked if he sent messages down to the team.
“You send prayers down when you‘re 14-0 down in a semi-final,” Bennett joked.
Bennett said it was “the last thing you‘d want” but once Souths cut the mistakes out, the side bounced back into the game.
He was also asked about star hooker Damian Cook, who looked to be dealing with a leg injury before scoring a stunning long range try.
“What do you reckon?” Bennett smiled.
“Can‘t say there’s too much wrong with his ankle can you? Like a little rabbit trying to run from hole to hole. He looked pretty good when I spoke to him five minutes ago, telling everyone how good his try was.”
But when he was asked about the “difficult week for obvious reasons”, Bennett turned icy, taking aim at the media.
Clearly talking about the Burgess drama, Bennett was clearly over the questions.
“You guys don‘t listen, that’s the thing that annoys me more than anything else,” Bennett said.
“I said two days ago that it had no impact on the team and it wasn‘t going to have an impact on the team. Still hasn’t, won’t.
“I‘m just telling you, I coach the team, I know what’s going on in the organisation, it was never going to have an impact on the team.”
The smiling Bennett was gone after the question with Bennett scowling when asked about Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds.
But the journos weren‘t done, asking why he was so confident that it wouldn’t affect the team.
“Common sense would tell you that, I‘m not going into detail about it,” Bennett said.
“You think about it.”
Bennett also said he didn‘t have much to say about Parramatta and said he didn’t see enough of the game to give too much of an opinion.
Asked if he wanted to give any thoughts about Parramatta as a team this year, Bennett smiled again, saying “not really”.
Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson called it a “Wayne Bennett Finals Special”.
“He’s very pleased with himself if I have to say, awkward viewing at times and it’s even tougher to be on the other side of that press conference asking questions.”