Australian captain Darren Lockyer warns former mentor Wayne Bennett will instill the long-odds Kiwis with real belief they can topple the Kangaroos in Saturday night’s World Cup final.
Former Australia and Brisbane coach Bennett has kept a low-profile as Stephen Kearney’s assistant and advisor during the Kiwis’ campaign.
But Lockyer is wary of his six-time premiership coach Bennett’s experience in preparing players for big games going into the decider at Suncorp Stadium.
“He’ll have a very big influence,” said Lockyer.
“There’s an awful lot of guys in the (New Zealand) squad that haven’t played in a final, a grand final or a game like this.
“The main thing Wayne will do is instill a belief in the players that they can do it.
“With all his experience, he’ll be able to settle their nerves a bit and draw on his experience to prepare those guys.”
Lockyer will turn out for his 39th Test, one which could hold a special place after he retires and reflects on his achievements.
“When I think about it, it’s a World Cup final, in my home town of Brisbane in rugby league’s Centenary year,” Lockyer said.
“It’s massive part of history and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.
“Hopefully it’s good memories.”
The Australian team has been winning over critics who believe it is one of the best ever.
But Lockyer, part of national sides since 1998, was careful to respect those who went before the current crop of exciting Kangaroos like Billy Slater, Israel Folau and Greg Inglis, all named in the Rugby League International Federation’s inaugural team of the year this week.
“What helps is there are probably six captains in our team, there’s a lot of leadership and a lot of new guys with great attitudes which comes through on the field.
“It’s a great team and I’ve enjoyed being part of it.
“But before we start reflecting on how great it’s been, we need to get the job done.
“Then we can start to talk about how good the team is.”
Lockyer however said he had no doubts the 2008 Kangaroos would do well playing in any country in any era.
Coach Ricky Stuart on Wednesday named injury concerns Brent Tate (hip) and Paul Gallen (though) in an unchanged 17-man grand final squad.
Both players will be expected to run and train on Friday to hold their places in the side with David Williams and possibly Anthony Watmough on stand by to come into the side.
Billy Slater, Joel Monaghan, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Brent Tate, Darren Lockyer (capt), Johnathan Thurston, Petero Civoniceva, Cameron Smith, Steve Price, Glenn Stewart, Anthony Laffranchi, Paul Gallen. Interchange: Karmichael Hunt, Craig Fitzgibbon, Anthony Tupou, Brent Kite.
Lance Hohaia, Sam Perrett, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Benji Marshall, Nathan Fien, Nathan Cayless (capt), Thomas Leuluai, Adam Blair, Bronson Harrison, David Fa’alogo, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Issac Luke, Greg Eastwood, Sam Rapira, Sika Manu.