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How a sledge from Wayne broke the ice for Mansour

When Josh Mansour reached out to Wayne Bennett in December and offered to introduce himself over a coffee, the Rabbitohs coach delivered the ultimate serve back.

"Nah, I've heard enough about you, mate... if you think you're coming here to be the jokester that's my job and you won't last long here," Bennett said.

It was the pick-me-up Mansour needed just weeks after the winger was told he'd likely spend the year in reserve grade if he stayed at the Panthers in 2021.

Making matters worse, the 30-year-old was still coming to terms with the Panthers' grand final loss to the Storm.

"It was a double whammy, it was a bitter pill to take in but it's gone now," Mansour told NRL.com.

"It's something I don't think about much anymore. I don't hold any resentment towards the Panthers but I couldn't ask for a better change in environment."

Bennett's dry humour helped break the ice for Mansour after more than a decade of playing against the seven-time premiership coach.

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"I started laughing when Wayne and I first spoke but it was one of those fake nervous laughs in return because I kept thinking about who he was," Mansour said.

"He's got this aura about him. He doesn't show much with the media and the perception isn't what he is as a person.

"But he's been unreal, a genuine person and loves having fun with the boys. It's really special to be coached under him. I understand why players like to play under him."

Mansour's return to Redfern after starting out as a junior has been met with not only the external pressure on the squad to deliver a premiership but the seasoned campaigner to continue his form on the edge as well.

Mansour enjoyed career-best statistics during Penrith's incredible run in 2020, averaging 181 metres per outing. 

It led to Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook joking the former NSW and Australian representative was expected to make '200 metres a week' at the Fox League launch last week.

"It's an expectation that I'm used to," Mansour said.

"It's my job to do all that dirty stuff and get the boys out of trouble and I felt like I played good footy last year and found some form.

"The thing I've noticed about this club is it's a big club and there's always an expectation surrounding a big club.

"We have to match that. It starts with the players on the training paddock and maintaining the standards."

Meanwhile, the off-season addition of Mansour has eased pressure on Rabbitohs outside back Braidon Burns to rush in his return from a dislocated kneecap suffered in July last year.

Burns was pencilled in for a return in the early rounds of the season but conceded "every day feels a bit different" and Bennett wanted him to take his time in a return.

"Wayne's told me he considers me a first-grader but I've got to get back to full fitness," Burns said.

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"It's going to be hard to get back into the team, being out for so long and with the signings we've made.

"It's going to make the club better and if there are injuries hopefully I can push my way in there.

"It's a week-by-week thing at the moment. I'm handling it well but after the weekends it's still a bit sore."