Bennett sets sights on Sydney series win

Scott Bailey
·3-min read

Queensland's rookies have hailed Wayne Bennett's ability to make them believe as the master mentor sits on the verge of one of the greatest feats of his 44-year coaching career.

The Maroons' series-opening 18-14 win over NSW on Wednesday night was State of Origin's biggest upset in more than 20 years, while an even bigger boilover looms if Queensland lift the shield in Sydney.

Bennett is already arguably the greatest coach of all-time, with a record seven grand final wins to go with his five Origin series victories.

Maroons rookies were quick to speak in awe of the 70-year-old after the win, where Queensland came from 10-0 behind at halftime to shock the highly fancied Blues.

"As all good coaches do, he's got that respect among the players," said fullback AJ Brimson, who scored a try on debut but will miss the remainder of the series with a foot injury.

"Especially someone like myself, I looked up to Wayne a lot growing up."

Brimson admitted to being nervous meeting Bennett, before the veteran quickly settled the rookie into camp.

"Just to be coached by him, everything he says you are locked in and focused you don't want to let Wayne down," he said.

"I think he gets the best out of his players."

Bennett's coaching accomplishments are vast.

His effort with nine Queensland debutants in 2001 is considered one of the Maroons' greatest Origin series triumphs, along with Paul Vautin's 1995 side.

At club level, Bennett's masterstroke to help Brisbane to the 2006 premiership with Shane Perry at halfback is widely regarded as his finest hour.

But if the Maroons clinch one of the next two games to take the 2020 Origin series, it will almost certainly torpedo those.

Particularly when you consider Bennett had just one month of planning behind him, working with 20 players in Queensland's squad he'd never coached before.

"He is very different to what I have watched on TV," hooker Jake Friend said.

"He is a great coach, he has been around for a long time, he is a great motivator, he knows footy.

"He is really good at keeping boys going. He is a people person and that is why he has done so well as a coach."

Fellow debutant Kurt Capewell said Queensland's confidence to come from 10-0 down at halftime had also come from Bennett.

"Wayne has instilled that confidence in us and he's got us playing well," he said.

"We all have the belief we can beat any team that is put in front of us. As long as we do what we do well we can only control us and we can only beat us."

Brimson could miss up to five months if surgery is needed on his lisfranc ligament injury, with Valentine Holmes the likely replacement at fullback on Wednesday after he missed the opener through suspension.

Kurt Capewell (groin tightness) received more positive news and is expected to back up after his game-turning performance in the centres.