Not so long ago, Wayne Bennett admits it would have been difficult for Brisbane teammates to lift for Corey Parker.
But Bennett says there is no doubt the Broncos will be motivated to send a more mature Parker out as an NRL premiership winner after their skipper confirmed he will retire at season’s end.
Parker, 34, made the surprise call on Monday that his 16th NRL season would be his last, despite a contract for another year being tabled by Brisbane.
The 336-game veteran has the chance to move to equal second with Terry Lamb (350) on the NRL all-time list if Brisbane make the grand final for the second straight year.
The Broncos failed to send out retiring great Justin Hodges a winner, falling to North Queensland in 2015’s epic season decider.
Bennett hopes they will go one better for Parker.
“It will become a factor,” he said of Parker, who was co-captain with Hodges in 2014 before taking the reins solo this year.
“That’s all you can do as a player, play for your mate.
“It gets to that place (grand final) that we got to with Justin last year, and I hope we can go back there this year.
“But it won’t be talked about – it will be something that will live inside of us, knowing it is his last year and you want to repay all the good things he has done for you.”
However, Bennett made the sensational claim that teammates may not have been motivated to play for Parker just a handful of years ago.
“Three or four years ago I don’t know if they would have all played for Corey,” he said.
“But they are all playing for him now.
“That’s the difference in him and his maturity.
“I wouldn’t have made him captain of the club four, five years ago.
“He has matured so much.”
Parker – who made his debut in 2001 as an 18-year-old – will fall short of breaking Broncos great Darren Lockyer’s record of 355 games but is glad to be going out on his terms.
“One of my biggest motivating factors going into games of rugby league is not to let my mates down,” Parker said.
“I don’t ever want to get to a point where my mates were looking sideways at me, thinking, ‘Maybe it’s passed him’.
“It’s important for me that I know I walk away from the game that I love on my terms.”
Parker is preparing for his 18th State of Origin game for Queensland on Wednesday night.
He has also played 13 Tests for Australia.
An emotional Parker told his Queensland teammates of his decision at their Gold Coast camp on Sunday night before calling a new conference in Brisbane on Monday.
Broncos chief executive Paul White said they would have a role for Parker after he retired.