Wayne Bennett’s word was all the motivation Adam Doueihi needed to get him through nine months of rehab after suffering an ACL injury during his breakout season last year.
As soon as Bennett arrived at South Sydney he assured the 20-year-old that he would find a spot for him in his 17 upon his return, if Doueihi was willing to put in the work.
Although the Bunnies went down 26-14 to the Eels on Friday night, Doueihi gained plenty of confidence from Bennett’s trust.
"I was getting a bit itchy at times - I find it hard to watch the boys play and not be out there, but Wayne was really good for me throughout my rehab since he's been at the club," Doueihi said.
"He's always reassuring me that if I was to put my best foot forward he'd find a spot for me in the team.
"I've tried to work as hard as I can to try and better my body to be physically and mentally ready to come back and try and put my best foot forward.
"I thought for him to put me straight back into first-grade was a big confidence booster for myself and I'll look to build off that performance.
"I was a bit quieter than I wanted to be last night but I guess that will come with confidence and a bit more game time."
Connor Tracey is another player Bennett has shown faith in.
The absence of Cody Walker allowed Tracey to partner Adam Reynolds in the halves for his long awaited NRL debut after overcoming three ACL injuries.
Doueihi said after watching Tracey battle it out in rehab and seeing how hard he worked to get a crack at first grade, he was proud to run out alongside him at Bankwest Stadium.
"I don't know how he's done it, I don't think I would last after doing that many," Doueihi said.
"It just shows his persistence. He's been killing it in Canterbury Cup this year and even last year.
"He always been the hardest worker and he's probably the fittest at the club. It was a special moment for him and I'm really proud of him."
Tracey suffered the first ACL injury to his left knee in 2015 when playing in the Cronulla Sharks under-20s side, his second not long after he returned for the Sharks 2016 pre-season and the third after joining South Sydney in 2017.
Despite the number of setbacks and self-doubt that accumulated as a result, Tracey said not once did he consider throwing in the towel.
"It was disappointing to get a loss but to get out there and play my first game in that packed stadium, it was a special moment," Tracey said.
"It's been a long road going through rehabs. There was some dark days but I've worked pretty hard on my knee and I'm happy with how it is now.
"I had a lot of doubt creep in after the second one and after the third one there was doubt I would ever get back to playing.
"But I really never thought of ever giving up. I had good support around me, I knew I had to work hard and hope that this last one will work and its held up so far."