Meet 'Mullet', the man driving Maroons to Origin success

HE hasn't scored a try, made a tackle or taken a hit-up.

But Mick "Mullet" Willetts is the driving force behind Queensland's champion State of Origin side and others before it.

Willetts has been driving the Maroons team bus since Paul Vautin's 'Nevilles' produced State of Origin's greatest upset over the Blues in 1995.

He has driven Queensland sides around for 57 Origin games in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne during those two decades behind the wheel.

In those 20 years Willetts has witnessed enough player high jinx and antics to write a bestseller.

But don't expect him to betray their trust. He's tinkered with the old sporting adage: "what happens on tour stays on tour" to read "what happens on Mick's bus, stays on Mick's bus".

"I've been told by a few people I should write a book, but I don't think I'd be game," he said with a laugh.

Willetts never experienced the crazy antics of Queensland's crown Prince, Peter Jackson, who played the last of his 17 games for Queensland in 1992 before he tragically died five years later.

"Jacko finished just before I started driving the bus so I never got the chance to spend any time with him, but, I can tell you, the stories are legendary," he said.

"There wouldn't be a camp go by (and Willetts has been involved in 19 before this one) that a Jacko story doesn't come up.

"He must have been the character of all characters because there's been some in my time."

Former captain Darren Lockyer, who played every one of his record 36 Origins with Willetts as his driver, told APN it took a special person to cop what the players dished out inside the bus.

"He might not admit it, but he lost the bus once," laughed Lockyer.

"He forgot where he parked it and it took him a while to find it."

Lockyer said Willetts was always the first person picked for Origin.

"He's a champion bloke," he said. "He's humble, he would do anything for you. He's a salt-of-the-earth-type guy."

One of Willett's many duties was to make sure the lolly jar was full when Lockyer climbed on the bus each day.

"Then we got this one particular conditioner who wasn't big on us eating lollies so Mick would hide a secret stash away for me on the bus," recalled Lockyer.

Willetts said Johnathan Thurston's ringtone laugh always filled the team bus.

"He and Hodgo (Justin Hodges) like to be the backseat boys of the group, they get things happening," he said. "They like to give it to Box (former hooker Steve Walters) and rev him up. Now Kevvie (Kevin Walters) is back in camp, God knows what's going to happen.

"It'll probably degenerate into a slanging match from the front to the back of the bus, which is always entertaining."

Willetts has a rare insight into the character and personalities of the Queensland players.

"While they are special men and an exceptional football team, they're an even better group and blokes which is more important in a lot of ways than their football ability," he said."

Topics:  editors picks footy tipping maroons nrl state of origin

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