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‘Weigh-in style feud’: Cleary, Bennett make up for grand final

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1st October, 2021
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The NRL’s great grand final coaching bust up has turned into an all-out love-in with Ivan Cleary and Wayne Bennett declaring they’ve moved on from their war of words.

Three weeks after their verbal jousting over kick blockers, Cleary and Bennett instead exchanged pleasantries in Friday’s pre-game press conference.

In a set-up made for a weigh-in style feud, Bennett claimed he was no longer concerned about the topic going into Sunday’s grand final while sat side-by-side with his Penrith counterpart.

“That’s in the past, I’m sure we’ve both moved on since then and we’ve got our jobs and our teams,” the South Sydney coach said.

Cleary responded in kind, confirming things were “good” after the pair exchanged a hand shake once getting on stage.

Instead, Cleary paid tribute to the way Bennett had acted as a mentor to him in his early days as a coach at the Warriors.

Ivan Cleary

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“Wayne actually helped me when I first started coaching,” Cleary said.

“He didn’t need to but he did. He gave me a few tips that I still use today so I’m very grateful for that.”

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Bennett and Cleary’s history is further entwined. Cleary was at one stage linked with Brisbane’s coaching job after Bennett left the Broncos for the first time at the end of 2008.

Bennett would also have been the man to take the Penrith job in 2019 if Phil Gould had his way, before Panthers chairman Dave O’Neill approached Cleary.

Getting the better of Bennett in a grand final will be a tougher task for Cleary.

Bennett has won seven of nine grand finals since linking with Don Furner at Canberra in 1987, and also won a Brisbane Rugby League title at Souths in his final year there in 1985.

Wayne Bennett

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

But there is little question Penrith are better prepared this year than last.

Cleary confirmed on Friday that fullback Dylan Edwards was on track to overcome a foot injury and play after training as normal this week.

Edwards is now one of 13 Panthers to have grand final experience, compared to just three last year.

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Six of Penrith’s squad have also made their State of Origin debuts since, joining Nathan Cleary in as many as six games for NSW or Queensland.

“A lot of other games as well since (the grand final help too),” Ivan Cleary said.

“Playing in a grand final, if you haven’t, is definitely an experience and obviously losing one isn’t a great feeling.

“But a lot of our boys have gone on to play Origin this year and some of our recent games have been good ones to have in the memory bank for experience.

“All of those games should help us this weekend.”

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Meanwhile, South Sydney also have no concerns over halfback Adam Reynolds’ groin, though it remains to be seen if he will be able to kick goals.

Three members of their 2014 premiership-winning squad remain, while Benji Marshall makes for a fourth man to have previously played in a decider.

© AAP

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