Former Storm and Wests Tigers player Adam Blair is key to the Broncos' premiership chances.
Former Storm and Wests Tigers player Adam Blair is key to the Broncos' premiership chances. DAVE HUNT

Bennett picks right man

WHAT do Andrew Gee, Shane Webcke, Petero Civoniceva, Brad Thorn, Kevin Campion and Beau Scott have in common apart from being rugby league players?

All six were tough, uncompromising hard men who won grand finals under coach Wayne Bennett.

Gee (1992, '93 and '98) and Thorn (1998, 2000 and 2006) won three each, Civoniceva (1998 and 2006) and Campion (1998, 2000) two and the other Bronco, Webcke, enjoyed a fairytale farewell in 2006.

Scott was a key member of Bennett's last premiership win with St George in 2010.

Now the master coach has a new hard man, 30-year-old Adam Blair (pictured), who could take Brisbane to a seventh title next month after being picked up by Bennett from the Wests Tigers last year when he was struggling with his form.

The Kiwi international went through a very tough period after moving from the Melbourne Storm, where he was rookie of the year in 2006, to the Tigers in 2012.

Struggling to find his best form, he was subjected to some harsh criticism during his time with the Tigers as his numbers and form slumped to the point where one Sydney newspaper asked the question: "Is he the NRL's worst signing ever?”

The same paper could now ask, after Blair's two great seasons with Brisbane, including last year's grand final: "Is he one of the best signings ever?”

Bennett, who formed a big opinion of Blair while assistant coach of the New Zealand Test side when it beat Australia in the 2008 World Cup, could not believe his luck when he was able to get the Kiwi to the Broncos.

Blair made Bennett sweat a little, however, playing a prank on the coach before inking a three-year deal.

"Everything happened quickly. The day I was to sign the contract I was in Brisbane's office at Red Hill and I gave Wayne a call and told him I had decided not to sign,” Blair said with a grin.

"He was a bit angry initially but we had a joke about it.”

Blair said Brisbane's approach and the chance to play under Bennett were compelling as he was ready to walk on the Tigers.

"When the offer came, I thought 'why not?' It's a great club and I enjoyed Wayne's coaching.

"He is so many things to his players. He is someone you can talk to, but at the same time you have to earn his trust.

"He cares a lot about his people and the welfare of his players.

"At the end of the day he is just a good all-round guy.”

Blair, whose contract expires at the end of next season, said he had enjoyed his time at Brisbane so much he would love to end his career playing at the club.

"If the opportunity comes along to finish my career with Brisbane that would be wonderful,” he said.

Right now, however, Blair is focused on the next few weeks and winning next month's grand final to replace the 2009 premiership stripped from him and the Storm.