STOCKS RISING: Tom Opacic of the Broncos runs in to score during the round 25 NRL match against the Storm.
STOCKS RISING: Tom Opacic of the Broncos runs in to score during the round 25 NRL match against the Storm. Scott Barbour

Bennett unearths another star in Opacic

WAYNE Bennett's uncanny knack of spotting a talented footballer at a young age hasn't dimmed.

When he returned to Brisbane last season, taking the club to the grand final, he noticed a kid playing in the Broncos' under-20s named Tom Opacic and immediately liked what he saw.

"He wasn't doing anything outstanding but I kept looking at him and thinking 'he just gets things done without too much fuss',” Bennett told Australian Regional Media.

"I said to the club 'make sure you keep this kid because I like him'.

"Last year was a bit of a development year for him (with Redcliffe) and he continued to impress me.”

When Bennett struck injury problems in the centres with Jack Reed and Jordan Kahu unavailable, he had no hesitation in calling up 21-year-old Opacic for a tough debut against the Bulldogs in round 16.

Four tries and seven games later he is still in Bennett's backline, and has a new one-year deal for next season as a reward.

The youngster, who is of Serbian descent, has drawn comparisons with another Bennett discovery of years gone by, Michael DeVere.

Being compared to the ultra-professional DeVere is not a bad thing given he played 160 games for Brisbane, five Origins for NSW and four Tests for Australia after writing Bennett a letter and asking for an opportunity in 2000.

"He's probably not as eccentric or professional as Michael, but there's a few similarities,” Bennett said with a smirk.

"Tom likes to do things properly and get everything right, but he is as not as obsessive about it as the Chief was, although he is very safe and reliable.

"It's important you get those players. You can't have a team of 13 superstars because nobody will do the work.

"Tom is always doing the little things.

"He scored two tries the other week. Were they brilliant? Did he beat 15 players to the try line? No, but he was in the right place at the right time and that's what he brings - he has that confidence to finish the job.”

WAYNE HEMING


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