There is no love lost between Wayne Bennett and Anthony Seibold.
Friday night's showdown between Bennett's Bunnies and his former club, the Broncos, has taken on an added level of animosity, with the master coach angrily defending himself against scurrilous claims about his departure from Brisbane.
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Since Bennett and Seibold switched clubs in a messy deal at the end of 2018, a fascinating grudge between the two powerhouse sides has blossomed.
It's a personal battle for Bennett who just last month was forced to publicly deny he had left the Brisbane roster in ruins when he was sacked at the end of 2018.
Bennett then took aim at Seibold, saying the roster is full of Test and State of Origin quality players who are not performing at their best.
But it's the suggestion that Bennett was already on the phone speaking with South Sydney's representative hooker Damien Cook - while he was still coaching the Broncos - that has left the veteran coach seething.
In an interview with the Courier Mail's Peter Badel, the 70-year-old coach strongly denied any suggestion that he went behind Seibold's back, while still coaching Brisbane.
“It is absolute bull**** that I was planning stuff with Souths while Seibold was there,” Bennett said.
“It’s like many things in life, people only want to muddy the waters when the truth is not told.
“That is the case of my so-called planning with Souths when Seibold was there.
Bennett denies trying to change a South Sydney pre-season camp arranged by Seibold, insisting he was only focused on the Broncos in 2019 before his sacking.
“I didn’t agree to go to South Sydney until the Broncos sacked me. I never once agitated to get out.
“I wanted to fulfil my contract with the Broncos.
“I was approached by the Wests Tigers, but I couldn’t take the job. I gave my word to the Broncos staff and players I would not abandon them for 2019.”
Rabbitohs wary of under-fire Broncos
Cook has previously credited Seibold for developing him into a State of Origin hooker but he won't have any sympathy for his former mentor when Brisbane meet Souths at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
The NSW rake seemed to agree with the notion that Brisbane's roster isn't as bad as their spot in second-last on the ladder would suggest.
"There's a couple of teams sitting down the bottom of the ladder, they're still quality football sides," he said.
"There's got to be some teams at the top and some at the bottom, it's just the way it goes."
"We've got to make sure we respect them this week. I don't feel sorry for other teams, we've got to worry about what we're doing here."
The Rabbitohs are currently sitting on the edge of the top eight after a mixed run of form and are desperate for a big win to avenge their round-two loss to the Broncos.
However, they will have to do it without in-form second-rower Jaydn Su'a, who was found guilty of dangerous contact at the NRL Judiciary on Tuesday night and will miss one game.
Seibold's side will be buoyed by the return from injury of David Fifita, while Matt Lodge (bone bruising in knee) has been named in the squad but not in the 17 as he attempts to prove his fitness.
Gold Coast-bound Fifita will add his game-breaking ability to a battling side that has also welcomed Staggs and hooker Jake Turpin in recent weeks.
Brisbane are 3-9, sitting second-last and effectively out of the finals equation after a horror return from the competition's shutdown.
Seibold said playmaker Anthony Milford could miss up to six weeks after injuring his hamstring on Monday, leaving Tom Dearden and Brodie Croft to guide the team.