ENGLAND winger Jermaine McGillvary says players play for Wayne Bennett because he always puts complete “trust” in them.
The veteran Australian coach is preparing the squad for Saturday’s mid-season Test against New Zealand in Denver.
To us, in England, it’s the best sport in the world but to everyone else it’s just a small sport.Jermaine McGillvary in Denver
Having steered England to the World Cup final in December, Bennett extended his deal by another two years to take them through to the end of 2019.
Huddersfield Giants star McGillvary, shortlisted for the 2017 Golden Boot after his exploits in the World Cup, admits the squad are increasingly united because of the 68-year-old’s man-management quality.
“He sets the tone for it all and he’s really big on trust and togetherness,” said McGillvary, about the Brisbane Broncos chief who succeeded Steve McNamara in 2016. “In 2015, we were all based at St George’s Park in the middle of nowhere but he basically said he didn’t want to treat us like children.
“He trusts every single one of us. He said (in Australia) we’d train hard in the morning and then after that we could do what we wanted to do – go to bed, go out, go into town, go shopping, whatever we fancied.
“He said he trusted us to not go drinking or do anything we shouldn’t be doing.
“He wanted us to be out there and mixing with the community.
“He’s really big on it and it shows all the faith we have in him.
“If you speak to anyone they always have something nice to say about him. He’s a really good guy and helped build that team bond. It wasn’t just the squad but the staff as well.
“It was all one big family and it’s great to be together again now in America.”
Bennett gives Hull FC utility back Jake Connor his debut alongside former Huddersfield colleague McGillvary.
Hull prop Scott Taylor – a late call-up to the travelling squad after George Burgess’s injury – is also included in the 17-man squad Bennett named yesterday.
With just 18 players available after Wigan Warriors’ George Williams was deemed unfit, uncapped St Helens prop Luke Thompson is the player who misses out altogether.
Saints winger Tommy Makinson – who also plays on the right side, like McGillvary – has been named in the match-day squad and is set for his debut although no news has been given about who will start.
It is the first time in Bennett’s reign that he has included specialist wingers apart from McGillvary and Leeds Rhinos’ Ryan Hall.
So, the Giants player was a little unsure about his Test spot, especially given an injury-ravaged start to 2018 and despite scoring seven tries in six games on the way to the World Cup final.
But McGillvary, 30, said: “I’ve had it in the past where I’ve been that third guy.
“I had it in 2015 when I was back-up but then the season after there were only two of us.
“But it’s good; competition is always good no matter what sport you play. It keeps you on your toes if you’re not quite up to it or not willing to put your body on the line – and Tommy Makinson has absolutely killed it this season. He’s doing really, really well and is more than deserving of his place in the squad. But I’ve shown what I’m capable of and I think Wayne knows that.”
There is an air of excitement in the England squad as they prepare for the historic Test on American soil, branching out with one eye on 2025 when the World Cup will be held in the States for the first time.
With Canadian side Toronto Wolfpack pushing for Super League and talk of a New York team also making a play, there is scope to advance the sport.
McGillvary, who warmed up with two tries in Huddersfield’s win over Catalans, said: “The potential here is massive. I saw that Toronto had signed up to a TV deal with someone in Asia. Tapping into different markets and continents is massive for rugby league.
“To us, in England, it’s the best sport in the world but to everyone else it’s just a small sport.
“Anytime we can expand it whether in our own country or elsewhere it’s good. You want the game to be big. You want the money coming in, the payers to get more money, the fans to see a better spectacle, for it to stand on its own two feet and dictate.
“I’m all for it and a massive reason for coming over is that if America gets hold of it then it will just blow up over there.
“They are the biggest player in the market really so if a TV company wants to promote rugby league then great. If we can help do it then it should be done every year.”
It is the first of three England games to to be held in the States over the next three years as the sport looks to lay some foundations ahead of that World Cup.
Having just fallen short in the last tournament, losing 6-0 to Australia in the Brisbane decider, Bennett’s side firmly have their sights set on the Kiwis.
England squad to face New Zealand: J Bateman, S Burgess, T Burgess, J Connor, J Graham, R Hall, C Hill, J Lomax, T Makinson, J McGillvary, S O’Loughlin (capt), M Percival, S Ratchford, J Roby, S Taylor, E Whitehead, G Widdop.