“They are key players at their club [Penrith], their club isn’t playing well, and they’re not playing well.
“I don’t know what they’ll do. I coached Origin, I coached seven series, I know how it works, and I know this much. Cody is playing so well, Reynolds is playing great, a couple of other players at other clubs are playing great, and last year’s pair who were in great form last year are nowhere near it. They’re way off it.
“And the positions they play, if you think you’re going into an Origin game in that form and be stars, it’s not going to happen.
“If you’re in the forwards it’s a little different, but they’re not key playmakers. You have confidence or you don’t have it.”
Bennett’s comments are sure to cause a stir as the Origin halves debate is no clearer.
What is clear is Souths are now on top of the ladder after an entertaining game.
Makeshift No. 1 Corey Allan came up with a huge play late in the game to deny Jarrod Croker what would have been the match-winner.
Allan came in for Alex Johnston who suffered a knee injury. Kyle Turner broke his big toe at Friday’s captain’s run and will now be out for a month, but the depth in the outside backs looks good.
Mawene Hiroti, who played just 11 minutes of NRL football last year, scored a brilliant try late in the game, but thought he had cost his team a ninth victory in 10 games when he spilled a bomb and gifted the Green Machine one last attacking play.
The Saturday night clash in front of a healthy crowd of nearly 17,000 fans was top quality.
There were eight straight penalties to the home side in the first half with Souths skipper Sam Burgess conceding four of them.
“He was losing his way, wasn’t he, with the four penalties,” Bennett said.
“That wasn’t what we wanted. It was probably the worst period in the game for us. But we defended it and went to half-time. We got it sorted out and went out there and got the job done.”
Canberra can hold their heads high after pushing the premiers and Souths all the way in the space of six days.
They will start short-priced favourites when they host North Queensland next weekend.
Souths will go up against the spirited Wests Tigers and coach Michael Maguire, who gave an NRL start to the likes of Cameron Murray, another excellent Souths forward against the Raiders and another in the Origin debate.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.