Wayne Bennett concedes he'll return to Brisbane for the NRL grudge match of the year with South Sydney's title hopes on life support.
While the Rabbitohs are assured of September football courtesy of their best start to a campaign in 30 years, seven defeats in 10 games have sent Bennett's early-season pacesetters tumbling out of the top four for the first time.
"I've just told them in there it's not terminal yet, but it's getting close," Bennett said after Souths failed to fire a shot in a sobering 14-6 loss to resurgent Canterbury.
"Look, you can't win the competition if you're not playing top football and our football's nothing special at the moment," Bennett said.
"So for us it's ridiculous to be thinking about that. It's the last thing I'm thinking about and it should be the last thing they're thinking about.
"We've got to get back to being a resemblance of what we were and then we can talk about what we can do and can't do."
Of most concern to Bennett is the length of his side's slump.
"It hasn't been quick. It's been over a period of months. It hasn't been quick," he said.
But the seven-times premiership-winning coach isn't ready to raise the white flag yet.
"Of course you can get it back. It's been here before this season. We've played some good football this year. We wouldn't be where we are if we hadn't," Bennett said.
"We've just lost a bit of momentum. We have been since the Origin time. We just haven't got it back the way I thought it would have come back. It just hasn't come back yet.
"It's pretty disappointing. How do you measure disappointment? One to 10? I'm disappointed."
Bennett had hoped Sam Burgess's return would spark his star-studded side back into action.
Instead, Burgess finished Saturday's match aggravating a quad strain, an injury that threatens to sideline the skipper from Friday night's blockbuster with the Broncos.
The showdown will mark Bennett's first game against his old club at Suncorp Stadium since rugby league's longest serving and most respected coach learnt of his sacking from the club last October via voice mail.
Australian Associated Press