Self-belief can conquer anything. But on the flipside – negativity causes you to second guess yourself. And when you do that, you are stuffed!

For me, that’s the story of life and the story of football.

I learnt a long time ago that the only way to make it in life was to back yourself. You won’t always win, but it puts you in a position to either win, or learn from your mistakes so you will be successful the next time.

I am lucky to have had an amazing Mum and Dad and three brothers, who all in their own way gave me self-belief. But another person who was pivotal in this area was Wayne Bennett.

I rate Wayne as the best coach of the past 20 years. I have played under a few so I can speak from a bit of experience. Wayne stands above all others because of his ability as a man manager.

He is able to instil in players self-belief. He makes players believe they are better than they are – not in a bad way, but in a way that they believe they can overcome anything.

That’s why the Broncs can go all the way this season. They have an interesting blend of experience and some sensational youngsters. The reason Brisbane have gone so well in the back end of the season is that Bennett has these young players believing they can conquer any person, any team.

I know, because that’s how he made me feel as a youngster when I was at the Broncos for four seasons (1999-2002). That self-belief took me all the way to the State of Origin arena in 2001-‘02.

Chris Walker

I loved being coached by Wayne. Not only do you believe you can run through walls, he also ensures his players believe in his game plan.

Interestingly, Wayne is not the best tactical coach around. That mantle goes to the Storm’s Craig Bellamy, and is the reason why I believe the Storm should be the slim favourites to take out what will be a very closely run finals series.

I also played under ‘Bellyache’ as an assistant coach to Wayne when I was at the Broncos and then during my short stint at the Storm in 2006, when he was head coach.

Craig leaves nothing to chance. I have known him to do up to 60 hours video analysis in the lead-up to a game. He dissects an opposition team better than anyone. This is the main reason why he is able to transform so many average park footballers and reserve grade players into really solid NRL players. He gives the members of his squad every bit of information they need to know about their opponents and then explains what they have to do.

The information he gives is freakish in its detail. He will explain when a James Tedesco will pass off his right foot, or when a Latrell Mitchell will shift the ball from his left hand so that he can palm with his right.

Any player under Craig Bellamy will have all the information he needs – it’s just then up to the player to put that information to its best use.

The other difference between Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy is that I still have a great relationship with Wayne, while Bellyache … well let’s just say we don’t do lunch.

Chris Walker

Craig and I used to be good mates. When I was at the Broncos he and I were golfing buddies. He was also the reason I left the Roosters to join the Storm. Unfortunately that was a case of wrong place, wrong time.

At that point in my life I was going through a break-up with actress Kate Ritchie and was really missing my family. Before that I had always been geographically close to members of my family. Even in Sydney my brothers Shane and Ben were always close by.

Despite these off-field issues I believe that early in the season my performances at training and in the trials warranted selection in the top team. Obviously Craig thought otherwise. And ‘my’ spot went to Steve Turner. The more I missed top team selection the more my off-field dramas seemed to escalate. I started hanging out with Brendan Fevola and the AFL boys, playing poker at the casino. Footy was the furthest thing from my mind.

Initially my intentions were good. I was going to Melbourne to play golf with my buddy Craig and play good footy. But that’s not how it turned out.

I have no doubt Craig was testing me. If I had’ve hung tough, stayed disciplined, there would have been a strong chance that I would have been rewarded with a regular spot in first grade. But I didn’t and, I think it was about Round 16 or 17, my pop died. I was supposed to play reserve grade that weekend, but instead went out on the drink. On the Monday I went into Craig Bellamy’s office and basically said: “I’m out of here”. Craig’s response was that the club had already decided to sack me. “Too late!” I said. “I’m going home.”

But I give him credit as a coach. Not only is he methodical and meticulous he is also able to adapt and change. The Melbourne game has changed, for the better. I actually enjoy watching them play these days and the Smith/Slater/Munster chemistry will be hard to beat.

 

FOOTNOTE: The ‘believe in yourself story’ that I have never before spoken publicly about:

So after exiting the Storm in 2006 I went and lived with my parents on the Gold Coast. Back with family I soon felt great and started training and wanted to return to footie in 2007. I got my manager, Chris Orr, to sound out Titans CEO Michael Searle. (The Titans were making their NRL debut in 2007.)

However Searle made it clear to Orr that he wouldn’t touch me with a 10-foot pole. My manager approached Searle a few times, but got the same response. Eventually he wouldn’t even take his calls. But my self-belief wasn’t going to let the subject finish there. I drove to Searle’s office in Southport and asked for a meeting. I was told ‘Mr Searle is busy … all day’.

But I would not be deterred. I returned time after time. Eventually, after about my sixth visit, Searley agreed to meet with me and my manager. They offered me a train-on deal, and I was away. I scored the Titans’ first try when they debuted in the NRL against St George, something I still hold close to my heart.

I went on to play three seasons for the Titans and, after coming back from two snapped Achilles tendons, played some of the best football of my career.

Never stop believing in yourself!