'Unique': Gilbert credits Bennett for his Maroons rise

·2-min read
Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

Queensland second-rower Tom Gilbert credits his Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett for providing the environment and ethos that has led to his State of Origin selection.

Bennett and Gilbert have a mutual admiration and it is not hard to understand why.

Bennett is an old-school coach and Gilbert is an old-school style of forward who competes with a passion, aggression and no-nonsense style reminiscent of Queensland great Paul Vautin in the 1980s.

When asked what role Bennett played in his selection for the State of Origin series opener in Adelaide on Wednesday night, Gilbert enthused about his "unique" coach.

"I have loved his simplicity about footy. Wayne doesn't over-complicate footy. It is a very simple game plan," Gilbert told AAP.

"The underlying thing about it all for Wayne is he likes me, and our team, to just play footy.

"That might sound cliched, but he just enjoys footy for footy. For Wayne it is all about running hard and tackling hard and he loves us to back our skill, go for a play and make it.

"I think that is evident in the Dolphins' play. We are not heaps flashy but we enjoy it. That's something Wayne encourages and something I've loved."

Gilbert, who made his Origin debut in the decider last year, has played lock for Bennett at the Dolphins.

"If I was Queensland coach, Tom Gilbert would be in the first half dozen blokes picked," Bennett, who coached the Maroons 22 times, said.

"He brings a lot to a football team. He is not always the star but what he brings inspires others to do better.

"He has been a real benefit to us and we are really proud of him. He is fearless. He doesn't care if he sacrifices himself for the team. They are pretty unique, those blokes."

Gilbert was small as a young forward and so had to find ways to impose himself on the game outside of the physicality he still displays.

"How was I going to make it as a footy player? I had to learn about kick pressure, compete on line breaks, jump on the loose ball," Gilbert said.

"They were the things that helped me as a smaller forward. I'm fortunate the Dolphins practice that and preach it. That's what has given me this opportunity.

"I'm not fazed playing on the edge just because I am playing in the middle in clubland. I just want to do my job for Queensland."