It's not only stars Jarrod Mullen or Darius Boyd that the Melbourne Storm are wary of, it's the man who will orchestrate Newcastle's NRL semifinal showdown tomorrow night - Wayne Bennett.

The Storm will host the unheralded Knights at AAMI Park with the prize a grand final qualifier clash with the Sydney Roosters.

The Knights coach has been a first grade coach for 27 years and made the finals 23 times, including seven premierships - six with Brisbane and one with St George Illawarra.

The defending champions are all that stand in his way of an eighth, which has Melbourne captain Cameron Smith very cautious about his opponents.


Smith came to know the coach in his first year with the Queensland State of Origin side in 2003, which was Bennett's last, while the pair worked together with the NRL All Stars team.

"He's been involved in rugby league for a long time and especially finals time," Smith said.

"He's won a lot of premierships as coach and he knows how to get people prepared the right way for these big matches.

"You hear of coaches being man managers, Craig Bellamy being one; Wayne's one of the best in the business."

Smith said he could see that Newcastle were peaking at the right time when they faced them in round 23, which was a hard-fought battle before the Storm ran away with the game 23-10.

"They came out of the blocks flying and they scored early and had us under the pump in the first 40 minutes and I think he'll have his blokes ready to go again this week."

Smith said he addressed his players this week following their 20-10 qualifying final loss to South Sydney because he felt the team hadn't been fully focused over the last month.

"Your mind's got to be on your job and your role that you've got to play for the side and I don't think every player's had that over the last month when we've been through an up and down patch."


He said that didn't include any distraction from a reported multimillion-dollar offer for him from Brisbane.

"I've made it clear that there's been no contract negotiating with the club. My focus is playing out the year for Melbourne as best I can so we can give our team the best opportunity to go as far as we can."