Cullen brings back memories for Bennett

The player tipped to replace injured Gold Coast pivot Tyrone Roberts is hardly a household name.

But the mere mention of Cameron Cullen has brought back fond memories of what is considered a career defining moment for Wayne Bennett 31 years ago.

Titans mentor Neil Henry is set to throw debutant Cullen into the halves with four-game No.7 Ash Taylor in Friday night’s NRL derby with Brisbane on the Gold Coast.

Cullen is an unknown.

But Broncos master coach Bennett reckons he knows exactly what to expect from the 22-year-old if his old man is any guide.

Wayne Cullen shone for the Bennett-coached Souths Magpies in their 1985 Brisbane Rugby League grand final win over Wynnum Manly.

It was Bennett’s maiden premiership as a coach.

A star was born.

Bennett went on to win a record seven NRL titles.

But the great Mal Meninga claimed Bennett confided in him that the maiden 1985 triumph was the one that helped forge the coaching legend.

“Ask Wayne himself whether that grand final in 1985 meant any less to him than the seven that followed, and he will tell you it was a career-defining moment for him,” Meninga later wrote in his News Corp column.

Cullen stood out in a Souths side boasting Meninga, Gary Belcher and Peter Jackson.

The star-studded Wynnum team was led by Immortal Wally Lewis.

Bennett cracked a rare smile ahead of Friday night’s NRL derby when Cullen’s name was mentioned.

“What do I know about Cullen? Well, I coached his dad,” Bennett said.

“I won a grand final with him in 1985.

“His dad was a wonderful player.

“I know Cameron. I am pleased he got an opportunity because he worked hard.”

Cameron Cullen certainly did.

A former Broncos under 20s player, Cullen trained with the Cowboys last year before earning a six-week trial with the Titans in January.

Now he seems to have finally grabbed his NRL chance.

Even Bennett seemed pleased for him.

“Players like him appreciate the value of the jersey every time they put it on because they don’t do it as much as guys there every week,” Bennett said.

“He will bring a lot of enthusiasm.”

And maybe more fond memories for Bennett.

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