South Sydney captain Greg Inglis has reminded teammates NRL titles are won in October not March after the Rabbitohs marked the start of the Wayne Bennett era with a statement first-round win over the Sydney Roosters.
Supercoach Bennett wasted no time placing rival sides on notice after masterminding Souths' stirring 26-16 victory over the reigning premiers on a rain-sodden SCG on Friday night.
Bennett handed his Rabbitohs playmakers a licence to thrill and Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker delivered with scintillating attacking displays.
Reynolds had a hand or boot in four of his side's five tries, while Walker set up one and crossed for the second-half game clincher.
"We have very talented halves and we have a very good fullback and an extremely good hooker, so my job is to free them up and let them play their football," Bennett said.
"(It's) not to try and put them in a box or play with structure. That is detrimental to the way they play. They have a freedom to play and that is what they bring.
"That is the beauty of what makes them the players they are."
Inglis, who outpointed Latrell Mitchell in their much-hyped personal battle after starting at right centre for the first time "since probably 2006", expects Reynolds and Walker to continue to thrive under Bennett.
But the endorsement came with a warning.
"Him and Cody and (hooker Damien Cook) led the side very well. They're only going to grow and get better from here on in," Inglis said.
"(But) we haven't achieved anything. We've won one game out of one."
"It was terrific game by the boys defensively but we've just got to go back and fix a few little key areas up."
Even Roosters coach Trent Robinson could see how Bennett's approach had already transformed the Rabbitohs following the seven-time premiership-winning mentor's off-season high-profile coaching swap with Anthony Seibold.
"They have got much more freedom in the way that they play," Robinson said.
"They were very structured last year. You could read it."
Reynolds said the key to Souths mounting a title push was striking an attacking balance.
"We've still got structures. I think every team in the NRL's got structures. It's whether you stick to them monotonously," he said.
"If we see something, (Bennett) has encouraged us to take it and I thought on occasions tonight we did that."
Australian Associated Press