A missed call from Wayne Bennett wouldn't be so suspicious on any other day, but Brett Morris had his doubts.
Knowing the man manager like he does, a phone call on the morning of a State of Origin game made Morris pause.
Because he knows how to get into players' heads by running decoy.
It's a slight of hand Bennett has perfected since he started coaching in 1986.
"Sometimes I get missed calls from him. Random times," NSW legend Morris tells AAP of his former St George Illawarra coach.
"He used to call me on the day of Origin and I didn't know whether he was geeing me up or not because he's a Queenslander.
"But he's always been a people person with his players and any past players will say that.
"If you need to call him he'll always answer and he'll have a chat."
And unless it's game day, the situation is vice versa for Morris and hundreds of other NRL players who have been coached by Bennett over the past 35 years.
This season at South Sydney could be his last, but no one but Bennett knows if it will be.
The 71-year-old is by far the longest-serving coach in the NRL but has showed no signs of slowing down even though the Rabbitohs have already announced his replacement in Jason Demetriou for 2022.
All with Bennett's approval, of course.
His success with an injury-depleted South Sydney at the end of last season would have been enough to show ageists that Bennett still has it, but then he went on to win the most unlikely of Origin series with a group of rookies.
Bennett has since been linked to the new Brisbane franchise which could be launched in 2023, given his reputation for taking a group of players and making them a team.
The man has a gift.
"You look at him, he came into Origin last year and only had three games to work with those guys but clued on pretty quick to what they needed and how to get the best out of them," Morris says.
"He's been doing it so long now that it's almost second nature to him.
"He knows how to read a bloke and what sort of plan to come up with for them.
"He's not one of the most technical coaches that I've had, he was more about going out there and playing hard for your mates: you do it together, you get it done together and you're a band of brothers and you don't want to let your brothers down."
It was this way of coaching that won the Dragons the 2010 NRL premiership and six others across his career.
In an age of complex statistical data and technical coaching techniques something can be said for simple motivation.
And like he showed each time he called Morris on game day, there's an art to distraction.
Part of his man management technique is taking the heat off players who would normally be under pressure.
If all goes to Bennett's plan, the story of 2021 will be all about whether he will keep coaching beyond the end of next season and not the Rabbitohs winning their 22nd NRL premiership - as they're favoured to do.
After all, he's never been afraid to run decoy.
Australian Associated Press