Wayne Bennett wasn't cracking any smiles but Newcastle veteran Danny Buderus says the master coach is excited about getting back into September NRL finals action.
Bennett was out among the Knights players for their final training run ahead of their knockout semifinal against defending champions Melbourne at AAMI Park tonight.
Wearing a cap and hoodie, Bennett looked his usual reserved self as he had a quiet chat with the team at the end of the session.
But Buderus said his coach was all smiles, at least inwardly.
"Wayne's been great. It's September and he's a totally different coach this time of year," he said.
When asked what was different about the coach, Buderus said he loved the challenge of finals football and it had filtered down through the team.
"He just gets excited, excited for the game," the 35-year-old said.
"We're feeding off that - he's our leader. He's Wayne Bennett. He's won a lot of premierships so he knows what he's talking about."
Buderus, who will retire at season's end, said the media had a "different perception" of the real Wayne Bennett.
"He loves joking and he loves being here in September," he said.
Bennett, who has been a first grade coach for 27 years, has made the finals 23 times, including seven premierships - six with Brisbane and one with St George Illawarra.
Buderus said this finals campaign was the culmination of an 18-month plan by Bennett, who left the Dragons for the Knights.
"He's been instilling a bit of faith and routine into this group."