Ask his loyal charges and they’ll tell you it’s the human touch that gives Wayne Bennett the coaching Midas touch.
Bennett will on Sunday bid to put an exclamation mark on an already unrivalled head-coaching record with an eighth NRL or Super League grand final triumph from as many attempts.
And he will do so in the same cool, fuss-free and measured manner as he did with Brisbane in 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2006 and while at St George Illawarra in 2010.
“The bigger the game, the more relaxed he is and I think that just calms the playing group down,” four-times Brisbane premiership winner and former captain Darren Lockyer told AAP.
“But it’s a phenomenal record, to go to seven grand finals and not lose one.”
Bennett is famous for not wasting words but Lockyer says, if it’s possible, the master motivator talks even less in grand final weeks.
“He’s not one to come up with a Churchillian-type speech to motivate you,” Lockyer said ahead of the Broncos’ and Bennett’s latest date with destiny against North Queensland at ANZ Stadium.
“That’s the theory he takes, that he’s not going to make his players a better footballer in seven days.
“All the work’s been done. It’s just about getting them mentally prepared for the week and making sure they don’t play the game before Sunday and get to the ground and have confidence that what they’re doing is going to work.
“It’s more about just understanding what the little things are and individuals’ jobs and make sure they each do that and as a team what the targets are and reminding them about the processes.”
Petero Civoniceva, who won three premierships under Bennett, says it’s the unique bonds he creates with his troops and equal respect he holds for his players that makes the 65-year-old such a special coach.
“Apart from being a great tactician, it’s just the relationships that he builds with his players,” Civoniceva said.
“Everybody’s different and he knows that and he knows how to get the very best out of each individual.
“So the way he treated Darren Lockyer would be no different than the way he treated, I guess, myself or a Shane Webcke.
“He knows what makes each individual tick. So knowing that, he utilises that knowledge to really push and drive each player and that’s why they want to play for him.”
While Civoniceva agrees with Lockyer that Bennett’s steadying influence on his players is key, the former front-rower says it’s a myth the taciturn coach can’t turn up the volume.
“Accordingly, he can up the ante in terms of the direction that he wants the team to go in and he’s one not to hold back, that’s for sure,” Civoniceva said.
“He’s very straightforward in the expectations that he sets for his players. He’ll be very simple, direct in what he’s expecting from each individual and how they play on Sunday.”
Civoniceva says fans don’t need to be a fly on the wall to know what Bennett’s instructions will be before the Broncos run out.
“He’ll tell them not to get away from what’s worked for them,” he said.
“Play with that toughness, play with that energy and also with that willingness to work hard for each other.
“I know that’s always been commonplace with Wayne in every team that he’s coached.”
Brent Tate, a member of Brisbane’s last title-winning side in 2006 before spending four years at the Cowboys, also testifies that Bennett’s mood doesn’t alter in grand final week.
“The great thing about Wayne is he doesn’t change too much,” Tate said.
“What he does know is how to prepare players, obviously with the record he’s got.
“The mood changes within the group without the coach because obviously they know there’s a lot on the line.
“But he’s just a wonderful man who will keep a lid on it, keep them calm and have them really well prepared and they’ll be ready to go.”
Gorden Tallis, a triple premiership-winning disciple of Bennett’s, says the 740-game coaching veteran’s trust in his charges to play with freedom is another secret to the maestro mentor’s success.
“He doesn’t tell you how to play. He actually doesn’t. He just let’s you play and you’ve got to be the man that you want to be and that’s pretty important,” Tallis said.
“The first thing I said to ‘Benny’ after coming from being coached by Brian Smith was: ‘Hey Benny, what do you want me to do today?’.
“He said: ‘Play bloody football, just play footy’.
“The other big thing he does is take the distractions away from the players.
“He might talk about this, he might talk about that but it won’t be about football and that takes the distractions away from you so you can prepare as normal as you can for a grand final.”
WAYNE BENNETT’S MAGNIFICENT SEVEN GRAND FINALS
1992: Brisbane bt St George 28-8
1993: Brisbane bt St George 14-6
1997: Brisbane bt Cronulla 26-8 (Super League)
1998: Brisbane bt Canterbury 38-12
2000: Brisbane bt Sydney Roosters 14-6
2006: Brisbane bt Melbourne 15-8
2010: St George Illawarra bt Sydney Roosters 32-8