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It is said that he who giveth can also taketh away and Dragons hooker Mitch Rein had genuine concerns that phrase was going to have personal ramifications ahead of his NRL debut in 2011.


Although he wasn't watching himself back home in Wollongong – "Too early in the morning" – a season-ending injury to Cameron King in the World Club Challenge in England left then St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett light on for options at No.9.

In the lead-up to the Round 1 clash with the Titans, Rein was handed the role of Nathan Fien's deputy on the bench, a maiden NRL appearance Bennett threatened to strip from him the day before the game.

Bennett will be in the opposition coach's box when Rein and the Dragons run out onto Suncorp Stadium on Friday night but the memory of a coach demanding perfection from his players on the training paddock remains etched into Rein's memory.

"He told me at the start of the week I was playing and then I remember at the end of the captain's run he ripped into me and said if I didn't switch on at training and get this 'D' right that he wouldn't be taking me," Rein told

"I was a bit shocked because I'd already told everyone, all my friends and that, that I was playing.

"You know how you go as a young fella, I was pretty excited and pretty pumped up and everything was going a hundred miles an hour but I think he just wanted to make sure I was switched on and I was concentrating for the game.

"It ended up all right. I think it was just a bit of motivation really and it worked so very thankful for Wayne giving me the opportunity to make my debut.

"Everyone knows how good a coach he is but just the way he handles his players, just player management really. To get the best out of all his players is what he does best and it was great to be coached by him."

When reminded of the incident from four years ago on the eve of the game Bennett had a typically brief response of his threat – "I probably did" – but said later that season Rein forced his hand to make a tough selection in a semi-final clash against the Broncos.

"It was a big decision I had to make the night we played Brisbane in the quarter-finals, the night Darren [Lockyer] kicked the field goal and they won the game right on full-time," Bennett said.

"I left Nathan Fien out to put him in the team because I thought he deserved that. He's gone on from there and he's a very valued player and he's a good player."

Having defied the critics to win eight of their first 11 games to sit comfortably inside the top four, the Dragons have bounced back from a seven-match losing streak to record convincing wins over the Knights and Warriors in the past fortnight.

Along with Gareth Widdop, Rein took ownership of the result against the Warriors last week when Benji Marshall left the field after less than a quarter of the game and in the past two games has scored twice as well as laying on three try assists.

It's the type of form that had him in the frame to come into the New South Wales team for the injured Robbie Farah in Origin III this year but the 25-year-old attributed any surge in personal performance to the turnaround by the team.

"I was really happy with how I was playing at the start of the year but then when we went on a bit of a losing streak everyone was down on confidence, myself included," said Rein, who will play his 104th game for the club on Friday night.

"I just felt like we got a bit of that back now and when you're confident you back yourself a lot more. We have been getting a lot more fast play-the-balls these last two weeks which really helps me out as a hooker and the rest of the team."

Even a mis-directed kick can look like a masterstroke for a team playing with confidence.

Early in the second half last week in Wellington, Rein put a cross-field kick across the face of the posts for Jake Marketo to leap up, grab and score to the right of the posts, a kick the crafty rake concedes should never have gotten that high.

"I think it was pretty obvious that I was supposed to put that one on the ground," Rein said.

"But because everyone was there pushing up they made a kick that wasn't according to plan turn out to be pretty good because everyone was competing for a result."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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