Where are they now: Michael Hancock

The cruellest part of Michael Hancock's job today is that the kids he teaches – even those with a genuine passion for rugby league – rarely know who he is.

"When I first go and see them a lot of them say 'I've never heard of you' so I have to tell them, 'Ask your mum and dad'. They usually come back to me and say something like, 'Oh my Grandmother loved you,' Hancock says, laughing.

"That tends to remind you of your age pretty quick! It's not always that way and obviously that's not what it's all about but if they happen to know you, or their parents know, it makes for a good memory that they know what you did."

Still heavily involved with the game he loves, Hancock has nevertheless come a long way since the days when he was renowned for his bustling runs and genuine dislike of being tackled.

A five-time premiership winner with the Broncos during a career that spanned 13 seasons between 1988 and 2000 (plus two with English club Salford), former barnstorming winger Hancock has spent the past eight years working in rugby league development teaching kids and coaches alike the basics they need to pursue a career in the greatest game of all.

"Yep, I'm in game development and it's pretty much what it says – I develop the game," Hancock told NRL.com. "It's the education of coaches and teachers of the skills it takes to play the game. We try to get as many kids as we can to play rugby league. My program is sponsored by the Greenbank RSL and it's something I've been involved with since I retired in 2002.

"We think that one of the things we've struggled with as a sport is our lack of knowledge. Just because you've played the game doesn't mean it's easy to play the game. That's where we come in and we try to teach as many kids as we can. Where the kids go, that's not our department. A lot of people confuse us with recruitment whereas we're just developing them. The main thing is to realise their dream and play in the NRL. If we can get good coaches out there giving the kids good messages, we're half a chance."

In more ways than one, Hancock considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Off the field, he relishes the opportunity to still be involved with rugby league as part of Brisbane's extensive development programs and insists his passion for rugby league hasn't wavered a fraction over the years.

"Yeah, my father always told me when I was young that if you can wake up wanting to go to work then that's half your battle – and I've got one of those jobs," he says.

"It's a good mix and I'm very, very thankful that I can be involved in some way. If in the future some kid comes up to me and says 'thanks very much for that input a long time ago' then we've done our job. We want to help kids realise their dreams."

But it was on the field that Hancock was at his best.

A member of the inaugural Broncos squad when they first entered the competition in 1988, he won premierships in 1992, 1993, 1997 (Super League) and 1998 before enjoying a fairytale farewell with a fifth title in his final game for the club in 2000.

Along the way he was also a regular in representative sides and by the time he finally called it quits he had played 14 games for Queensland and 13 Tests for Australia to go with his 274 games for Brisbane.

"I think the main thing I look back at is the grand finals that I won," he says. "I always make the comparison – poor Andrew Ettingshausen played over 300 games for one club and never won [a premiership] so they don't come easy and I was very thankful that I won five. I did everything in the game that I ever wished for, or thought I could achieve. I think playing one game was a bonus. It's a cliché but it's also true when you look at the stats that say out of all the kids that play rugby league less than two per cent go on to play NRL. It was a fantastic thing and now I get to work at a club that's one of the best in the competition, so the dream lives on."

Perhaps best remembered during his playing days for his desperation to shake off defenders once the referee had called held – Hancock would jump around on the ground like a jack-in-the-box – the man himself prefers to think of himself as somewhat of a pioneer for the quick play-the-ball and laughs at suggestions he was an 'angry' player.

"Oh it wasn't about that," he insists. "If you look at the quick play-the ball now and not being allowed to lie on them – I just wanted to get up as quick as possible because I knew how important it was for the guy taking the next hit-up.

"There was no malice – I never hurt anyone and never kicked anyone in the head or anything like that. I was just trying to help my team. That was my job and like anything, if you don't do your job to the best of your ability you're going to get sacked. That was just me.

"I had a lot of people come up to me after I finished playing and say, 'Wow you're nothing like you were when you played!' And I would say, 'Why should I be? That was my job and once it's finished I'm an open book. I'll talk to anybody'."

Hancock was also privileged to play his entire career under the coaching of super-coach Wayne Bennett and believes the remarkable success he has had at Brisbane and now the Dragons comes down to his relationship with his players.

"He is a very good people's person. He can read people's personalities," Hancock explains.

"He doesn't shy away from saying, 'If I'm not happy, I'm not going to be someone that I'm not.' That's the way he has always been. If he is in a good mood he'll have a joke and if not, well that's just him. He was the same as a coach.

"I was a bit the same way. I was a very focused player. I had my own little demons I dealt with so obviously people said, 'You're an angry player.'

"Me and Wayne had our own thing. He said to me, 'Listen, if you're not happy, I'll stay away and if I'm not happy, you stay away'… so we had a very good understanding when it came to our personalities!

"But he was very good at giving a team confidence. He knew which personalities he could confront in front of the team and which he had to maybe massage in front of the group. If you look at his life and his background, the things he does is fantastic. He's got two kids that need 24-hour care. He is great at separating his football life from his personal life."

Hancock, of course, remains a very loyal Bronco these days and is keeping a close eye on the farewell season of former teammate Darren Lockyer.

And just perhaps, he says, the club's greatest player will achieve his own fairytale farewell when he plays his final game in a few months' time.

"They're certainly looking good and their defence has been brilliant," Hancock observes.

"Defence is the cornerstone of any premiership. Anthony Griffin was our defensive co-ordinator last year so there is no reason we shouldn't be No.1 in defence. And the attack will come.

"Hodgo (Justin Hodges) has been out of the game, so he'll keep improving. We've still got Locky and Jharal Yow Yeh. They'll get the confidence in attack from the great defence they're showing at the moment.

"They're a good bunch of young guys that love playing for one another and that's something Anthony Griffin has brought to the team."