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Robbo to be NRL coaching great: Pearce

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has overseen more finals victories than Sydney Roosters counterpart Trent Robinson has NRL matches.
Robbo to be NRL coaching great: Pearce
by AAP

By Rob Forsaith

SYDNEY, Sept 24 AAP - Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has overseen more finals victories than Sydney Roosters counterpart Trent Robinson has NRL matches.

It's a snapshot of the vast gap in experience between one of Australia's sporting icons and the league's youngest head coach who has excelled in his first season in charge of the Roosters.

On Saturday night their respective teams will square off at Allianz Stadium, with the reward a place in next Sunday's grand final.

Should Robinson take the spoils and do the same in the season decider, as bookmakers expect him to do, the 36-year-old will become the youngest man to achieve the feat since a 35-year-old Ricky Stuart delivered the Roosters their 12th premiership, in 2002.

Halfback Mitchell Pearce says the rookie coach deserves the vast majority of the credit for transforming the tricolours from the inconsistent side that finished 13th in 2012 to minor premiers boasting the best defence in the competition.

"I haven't had much to do with Wayne Bennett, he's obviously one of the true greats," Pearce said on Tuesday.

"But I think Robbo is going down that path. It's a big call to say so early, but anyone who knows him, they know how special a coach he is.

"His record speaks for itself so far.

"He's given a lot of confidence to all the boys."

Bennett crushed the premiership dreams of Pearce in 2010, when the Roosters went down to St George Illawarra 32-8 in the grand final.

The 24-year-old said the Roosters have added some much-needed defensive steel compared to then, with Robinson at the forefront of it.

"Defensively we've created a good culture, it's all about hard work and turning up for each other. In 2010 we were a lot more of an attacking side, we had a lot of flair and we threw the ball around," he said.

"It's a completely different sort of situation now."

Pearce noted Robinson ensured his charges kept their heads after a 4-0 win over Manly in week one of the finals, singing from the same songsheet as the Knights after their upset sudden-death wins over Canterbury and Melbourne.

"We've got a great coach and they know how to level you out pretty well," he said.

Newcastle enforcer Neville Costigan, who also played under Bennett at Brisbane and the Dragons, can only agree.

"Definitely after that Melbourne game we switched off and almost forgot about it," Costigan said.

"Wayne never changes. His jokes get a bit drier but that's about it."

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