Wayne Bennett doesn’t usually show a lot of emotion, but Queensland’s thrilling victory over NSW on Wednesday night cracked the usually stoic coach’s facade.
The veteran coach, drafted in to replace Kevin Walters, was seen smiling and dancing in the rooms after their shock 18-14 upset over the Blues.
A far cry from Bennett’s usual no-nonsense demeanour, footage of the usually unemotional coach celebrating the victory with Queensland players delighted fans.
No player gave him more cause for celebration than Dane Gagai, the mercurial South Sydney centre who had an up and down season in his first year under Bennett’s guidance.
Well-known for lifting his game in State of Origin, Bennett couldn’t help but take a cheeky shot at his player, as Cameron Munster revealed on the Skipper and the Pres podcast.
“It was so funny, Wayne's obviously his coach at Souths and he had a bit of a giggle in the sheds after the game,” Munster said.
“He said 'f*** me, Gags, why don't you wear that Origin jersey under your Souths jersey.”
Munster went on to talk about Bennett’s influence on the Queensland side, which boasted several State of Origin debutants.
Can someone make Dane Gagai wear his Qld jersey under his Souths one #Origin
— Matt Thistlethwaite (@MThistlethwaite) November 4, 2020
What does Dane Gagai do on the 362 other days when he’s not playing #origin?
— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) November 4, 2020
Give me a Last Dance style documentary series which follows Dane Gagai's transformation from mild-mannered Rabbitohs winger to Origin superhero
— Nick Campton (@campo37) November 4, 2020
He said the veteran mentor offered a ‘calming presence’.
“He's very mellow but has a good laugh and loves getting around the boys. He plays cards and sits up the back of the bus and loves hearing all the stories the boys toss up,” Munster said.
“So he calms the whole group down.
“There was a lot of debutants in the group and they were all nervous but he calmed their nerves and they showed how good they can go.”
Blues coach considering changes for Origin II
NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler will seek advice from trusted confidantes as he contemplates changes to the side for State of Origin II.
Changes have already been flagged after second-rower Cameron Murray suffered a hamstring injury that will rule him out for the series.
However, question marks remain over a number of positions ahead of 21-man squads being named on Friday afternoon.
And after an 18-14 loss in Adelaide, Fittler is unsure of his best 17.
"It was a totally different scenario, especially having players come in from grand finals and trying to work all that out," he said on Thursday.
"I feel like I've learnt a lot from that as well which is incredibly interesting, having teams fall out late in the season and having people come in at later stages.
"We live and learn."
Jack Wighton is expected to be fit to play game two at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday, while skipper Boyd Cordner will need to pass concussion protocols following his HIA on Wednesday night.
The coach is understood to be weighing up whether to name him to play next week.
There are growing concerns for the captain who has suffered a number of concussions this season but Fittler said he would speak to Cordner and listen to advice from medical staff.
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