Behind the mask, why the real Bennett gets results

The Rabbitohs improved out of sight last year under new coach Anthony Seibold but while some people are expecting them to come back to the pack this year, I believe Wayne Bennett can take them to an even higher level.

Seibold did great things for the club and I'm sure will have plenty of success at Brisbane but you just can't overstate the impact Bennett has had on the game over a long career and the experience he brings not just as a rugby league coach but as a manager of people.

Wayne brings a different level of commitment and purpose.

I've spoken to a number of the Rabbitohs players since Wayne has taken over – I also played under him on Kangaroos tours – and the feedback I get is Wayne really cares about you as a person first and foremost, about your happiness, your life and then about your football.

He cares about your choices as a man, as a player and as a person.

When I hear players talk in that sense, that's where I really understand that players play for Wayne Bennett.

If you have someone that cares that much for you, you will do anything for them.

That's a very powerful thing in a team environment because you start to go down the path of playing for something bigger than yourself. You begin to do things you didn't think you could do, you begin playing for higher purpose which is a great feeling and creates a great environment to be in as a team.

I've had that at stages in my career and there were times I didn't have that.

You sacrifice anything for the team and you don't care about who gets the positions or the accolades because you are truly united and it's just great to be a part of it all.

And it's not just the top squad that will benefit. I help out a bit with the Rabbitohs' junior teams and Wayne brought a group in to speak to them over the summer.

When I was watching him talk to the kids, one of the dads said to me, "when you watch Wayne Bennett in a press conference it doesn't seem like he's got a personality but watching him talk to these kids it is completely different".

He spoke about life choices, what it takes to make it, how no longer is it enough to have skill, now you have to be able to work hard. And how not even that is enough, you also have to be a good person and make good life choices or you'll get rubbed out of the game.

He told them it's not up to the coaching staff, everyone in the room has got an opportunity to make what they want of their life. You won't get a better set-up than what is at the Rabbitohs but what will determine whether you get there is your choices.

When I was watching those kids and the adults listening to him, he had everyone captivated. There is so much more to him than what you see on TV. He's such an intelligent person and such a deep thinker. That persona he puts out in the media really creates an inner sanctum within the team.

It really refreshed my memory of what he was like on the Kangaroos tour, just that feeling like you're protected by the coach. He shields all the stress and pressure so you can be in this environment where the outside world doesn't matter and you can just focus on getting the job done.

My first encounter with Wayne was when I was first at Souths and they got kicked out of the comp and I was tossing up between the Roosters and Broncos.

I went up to Queensland with my dad and met Wayne at the airport. He sat me down and said, "I've watched you play, I watched your Australian Schoolboys game at Ballymore when you beat New Zealand at rugby, I know who you are, your weaknesses and strengths. This is our plan for you, we would teach you to five-eighth, we wouldn’t rush you in, we want to focus on your natural ability but there are other things you can learn." He went through everything.

I sat there and thought "Wow, this is everything a player wants to hear".

The next day I met with Graham Murray at the Roosters and he basically said, "Mate I don't really know who you are, I haven't seen you play but they tell me you're good, Nick Politis has seen you and he wants you here".

Of course I ended up at the Roosters and 'Muz' was a great coach. It's because I was going to uni around the corner at UNSW at the time and still living at home and didn't feel I was ready to move to Queensland but in hindsight if I was advising my son I would have told him to go with Wayne because he said everything you want to hear.

I often wondered what it would be like to play under Wayne Bennett, who has a deep long-term plan for you as a kid.

The part that impresses me the most about him is he thinks about what benefits a player the most and how to get the best out of them before putting those pieces together to work out how to turn that into a successful team. A lot of other coaches would look at what's best for team first.

I still wouldn't be surprised if the Rabbitohs have a slow start this year. They might try a few new things but if they lose a few games early on Wayne wouldn't worry too much, he'd be more concerned for them as a team if they were peaking at the start. He's a wise old coach and knows it's a long season.

The Rabbitohs already had a fantastic roster before Wayne arrived but every one of those guys will flourish under him. I really see Souths improving; it's not about working harder or training harder, it's about the mindset he'll bring.