ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA coach Wayne Bennett has given an insight into the enormity of the challenge awaiting the Dragons in their chase for back-to-back premierships - but also why he believes they are capable of becoming the first team to achieve the feat in almost two decades.
Bennett coached Brisbane to the last back-to-back titles, in 1992-93 (and also did so in 1997-98 with the same club, in the Super League era). On the eve of this year's finals campaign, which begins for the Dragons tomorrow night against Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium in the first qualifying final, he detailed how he planned to do it again.
Asked why winning back-to-back was so difficult to do in the modern era, Bennett said: ''It's hard because the thing you've wanted most of all, you've achieved. The other clubs didn't achieve it, so they've got a different approach to it and they've got a different hunger to it.''
Bennett, who has coached seven premiership-winning teams, was adamant that, even with the Dragons about to enter their finals campaign, the hardest work was over; that being the reclaiming of the hunger that spurred them to last year's historic win against Sydney Roosters.
''The hardest part in the back-to-back year was getting back there,'' Bennett said in an interview for the Dragons' website. ''You look at the last three or four years, the amount of teams that haven't even made the play-off series that played in the grand finals [a year earlier], it's quite alarming.
''[But] when you get back there, you're in pretty good shape.
''We're in pretty good shape. We haven't got an injury in the club. We've got our best 17 players going on the ground on the weekend. We've got some form back.
''What you have is a group of men who know how to get the job done now. They were there last year - they know how to do it. They relish this big occasion as well.
''It [finals] is what you coach for, I hope it's what you play for as well, because this is where it happens. This is where the best are against the best. And that's what you want. That's what you want to challenge yourself about, and just find out how good you are.
''It's OK to say you've played in the NRL, but there's only so much of that that you can do. What you want to have is the opportunity to play in the really big games, and these are the big games now, the next four weeks. I think everybody's excited they're going to be there.''
Bennett said he felt there was ''a belief and a confidence'' in his squad - which endured a five-match losing streak but has won its past two games - making him confident that the team was back on track.
Asked what the Dragons would need to do to reach a second-straight decider, Bennett said: ''They just have to be the Dragons, and do the things that have made us the team that we are. We're getting back to doing those things. That's the key part.
''They know what wins for them. They know what they've got to do. It's not the opposition that creates the biggest hurdle for them, it's themselves. We got away from those things, for a whole lot of reasons.
''But we're back on track doing those things that make us a good football team. I said to them today: 'The last two games, we've been behind in one game at half-time, we've been in front in another game at half-time, and both times we closed them out'. It is that ability to do that … that's what I hope we're getting back to. I feel that we're getting back to that. There's just a belief and a confidence that regardless of what's happening out there, we'll overcome.''