Crawley Files: Robbinson's shot at Bennett’s title
Of all the mouth-watering match-ups that will be lining up on the famous Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday night, none are more enthralling than the battle of minds that will be going on in the Brewongle Stand coaching boxes high above.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson turns 42 on Friday. Yet he is unlikely to be thinking much about his birthday when he makes his way to the SCG to take on South Sydney.
Just like Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett, Robinson couldn't care less about his age. Although at 69, the fact Bennett is still motivated for the massive challenge that is coaching in the NRL should not be undersold.
To put it in perspective, for Bennett to still be in the game in 2019 would be like Robinson hanging around until 2046.
It's an astonishing thought, though one those close to Robinson would not dismiss this week in the countdown to this opening round blockbuster.
Boyd Cordner reckons he would not be shocked to see Robinson still coaching when he gets to Bennett's age.
"He loves footy more than anyone I know," the Roosters captain said.
And Roosters supremo Nick Politis was of the same opinion - that Robinson has all the qualities necessary to put him in a position to one day emulate Bennett's astonishing record.
Without rubbing salt into old wounds, it's no secret Politis was filthy for years after Bennett knocked back the job at the Roosters before he went to St George Illawarra in 2009.
But if Bennett had taken up Politis's offer back then, would Robinson have ever got his opportunity to claim his own place alongside Bennett and Craig Bellamy in the argument as to who is the best coach in the game today?
While Robinson and Bennett have very different personalities and coaching styles, the comparisons between their careers at the same stage are striking.
Bennett was 37 when he kicked off at the Raiders. Robinson was 35.
Robinson has now won two competitions in his first six seasons.
Bennett had two in the bag in his first seven years, although he also made a grand final as co-coach at Canberra with Don Furner in 1987 in his first season - and has since gone on to win seven premierships.
The biggest knock on Bennett's record from his conga line of critics has always been that he had the best squad on paper in his early years at the Brisbane, so he should have won the comp every year.
If only it was that easy.
It's like saying Robinson should win the premiership every year now given he has the best side on paper.
The fact is plenty of coaches in recent decades have had their shot of coaching the Roosters under Politis's reign, yet Robinson's success has surpassed them all.
He is also the Roosters' longest-serving coach in history on 158 games after passing Arthur "Pony" Holloway's 154-match record last season.
And yet, while it seems he is just starting out, the awe in which his players speak about Robinson ridicules that thought.
"I always say to everyone, he has definitely coached in a previous life," Cordner said. "Everything he does is so well thought out. There is a reason behind everything.
"It is so clear what he wants from his players … how he wants us to play football, our identify as a club. And as a team, he doesn't leave any stone unturned."
Cooper Cronk, who spent his entire career playing his club footy under Bellamy at Melbourne before joining the Roosters, explained it further: "His rugby league IQ is through the roof.
"He is intelligent. He analyses the game. He picks things and twists them about, turns them upside down and sees if it works. And he is articulate the way he goes about it.
"But the biggest rap I can give him is that a lot of coaches put winning games of football above anything else.
"That is important to Trent.
"But doing the right thing morally and ethically by his players, his club and the reputation image of the game is probably first and foremost.
"Then winning comes second.
"I have had two very good coaches and they both sing from that same hymn sheet. I don't think too many other coaches can say that."
But it seems to be the common trait among the game's true supercoaches.
To think Bennett has not only lasted as long as he has, but continues to push forward into his 33rd straight season with such dogged determination after the way things turned so sour for him at Brisbane last year is an amazing accomplishment.
But equally driven will be Robinson, who is embarking on his own shot at history, attempting to become the first coach since Bennett in 1992-93 to win back-to-back titles.
That was also Bennett's seventh season in the big league, the exact point where Robinson's career is right now.
Asked how long he could see Robinson coaching the Roosters, Politis chuckled down the line: "Well, let me think. I might die in 10 years. But I think Robbo will be still here."