Maroons enforcer Josh Papalii sent Wayne Bennett a text message before joining the Queensland camp to tell the master coach he was nervous about meeting him for the first time.
"You’d better be nervous," Bennett replied.
Papalii had played 14 Origins before Wednesday night’s 18-14 triumph against NSW at Adelaide Oval and is regarded as the best prop in the game but Bennett’s reputation and coaching record had him on edge.
"I rolled into camp and broke one of the first rules when I missed a meeting," Papalii said. "He said 'no shit haircuts' and here I am walking in with a full-on mullet.
"I don’t usually get nervous, but it is a bit different with Wayne. He has coached the best players in the world and he has got the best out of players who people thought weren’t worthy of it. I thought I was one of those."
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 2 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Veteran hooker Jake Friend, who has won three premierships with Sydney Roosters, felt the same about playing under Bennett for the first time, as did Penrith utility Kurt Capewell and Gold Coast fullback AJ Brimson.
"He's got that respect among the players, especially someone like myself. I looked up to Wayne a lot growing up," Brimson said.
"Everything he says you are locked in and focused you don't want to let Wayne down.
Match Highlights: Blues v Maroons
"I think he gets the best out of his players, especially for rookies like ourselves. He has coached a lot of footy and he knows what Origin is about. That's what he drilled into us last week."
The Queensland players attributed Bennett’s halftime address for inspiring their series-opening triumph after coming back from 10-0 down at the interval.
Bennett’s message was simple – the Maroons had to earn the right to shift the ball to the edges by playing well through the middle – and it paid dividends with Capewell and fellow centre Dane Gagai creating havoc in the second half.
"Wayne had the same belief we did at halftime," Capewell said.
"We were still in the game and we just had to strike while the iron is hot. Wayne has instilled that confidence in us and he's got us playing well."
It’s the way those who play under him gain so much self-belief that gives Bennett such an aura.
The seven-time premiership-winning mentor has guided Queensland to five Origin series triumphs in seven years during three stints and is now just one win away from doing it again with a team of rookies few gave a chance of stopping a NSW three-peat.
Bennett proud to take Origin showcase to Adelaide
"He is very different to what I have watched on TV," Friend said.
"He has been around for a long time and he is a great motivator. I think his point of view on footy is amazing and I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks with him and the rest of the squad.
"I think he is really good at keeping the boys calm, I think that is why he has done so well as a coach. He knows when to get the boys pumped up and ready to go and he knows when to have a bit of fun so I think it is a really good blend."
Papalii said: "He makes me feel confident in myself and he is a very honest judge of my performance so I think that is perfect for me. I think he coaches me as a person before a player and I really admire that as a coach."
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Brimson was a Broncos fan when he was growing up and admits he had been star-struck to meet Bennett for the first time last week in the Queensland camp.
"When he first came in from Sydney I said 'hello' to all the Sydney boys and I missed him," Brimson said.
"I was sitting around the table and I kind of missed the boat to say hello to him.
"I was just sitting there and I didn't want to reach in front of everyone and then he looked over and he said how you going. I was a bit nervous so it was good to get it out of the way. It’s pretty cool just to see him walking around and ask him for advice."
Game two tickets start from $45 for members and $49 for general public or get your wig and experience the Blatchy’s effect from $85 for members or $90 for the general public