PLENTY of great players struggled to get a rap out of Wayne Bennett early in their careers.
Giant young Broncos utility Corey Oates could score five tries on the wing against Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow night and Bennett would most likely rate his game as "not bad", with the proviso to the media being: "don't give the kid a rap".
Team captain Justin Hodges would then chip in with something like: "it's okay coach, he can't read".
That's the kind of tough love Oates has had to get used to, despite a number of good judges tipping him to be a future star once his finds his home in the team, probably in the second row.
But for now, he has to wear the carve-ups teammates like Hodges provide, and also his coach's dry humour when his name is tossed forward for comment, which has been quite often this season given his powerful running game and try-scoring ability.
"I don't think Wayne (Bennett) likes giving me a compliment," said Oates, who hears the coaches' feedback from post-game media conferences.
"I'm trying to the job, but I am still learning."
As former Bennett-coached players will tell you, the best compliment you can get is no compliment at all.
But Oates is finding out being coached by Bennett is worth the digs and jokes he has to wear.
"It's unbelievable being coached by a man like him," the 20-year-old from Biloela said.
"You have to do your best to not let him down.
Bennett is a tough, old-school coach, but Oates has already seen the side of him that sets him apart from so many other NRL coaches.
"He gives you tough love but you can tell he cares about all his players, and he's there for more than just football," Oates said.
"He always asks how things are and is up for a chat if you have a problem or something is bothering you."
For the kid from rural Queensland who is still not 21, it's already been quite a ride, and it clearly isn't over by a long way.
Oates extended his contract with the Broncos for another two years until 2017 because he knows Bennett is the best man to help him reach his goals of winning premierships and playing for his state and country.
The first goal may come early next month if Brisbane make it all the way to the NRL grand final in Sydney.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.