Jahrome Hughes has thanked Craig Bellamy for "the kick up the bum that I needed" as he aims to emulate his childhood hero Benji Marshall and inspire his team to premiership glory.
The Melbourne halfback had a lacklustre game against the Eels in the 36-24 qualifying final win and was told a few home truths by the coach.
The 26-year-old playmaker then turned it on in the 30-10 preliminary final triumph over the Raiders last weekend with two try assists.
Hughes, like Marshall in the 2005 decider that he watched as a wide-eyed youth, played with confidence from the get-go and gave his team a dream 24-0 lead after as many minutes.
Match: Panthers v Storm
Grand Final -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
"I was very disappointed by the way I played against the Eels and I got a kick up the bum by a few of the coaches and the players," Hughes told NRL.com.
"I think it was the kick up the bum that I needed. It was all about not letting the game come to me but taking myself to the game. I feel like I did that against Canberra.
"Craig didn't put me on show in front of everyone, but he pulled me aside and said I needed to be better early, back myself and be confident. It felt like we started really well because I did that. It was probably the best start we have ever had."
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Hughes is yet to win a grand final at any level after losing season deciders in the Intrust Super Cup with both Townsville and Sunshine Coast.
The Kiwi international grew up in Wellington playing rugby union and with aspirations to play at the highest level until a defining moment that changed his goals in life.
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"When I was young and living in New Zealand I came over on holiday to see my mum and it was when the 2005 grand final was on," he recalled.
"Mum just chucked it on the TV and it was when Benji Marshall threw that magic flick pass. It was the first grand final I had ever watched because I was more of a rugby union guy then.
"Watching Benji in that grand final, and being a young Kiwi as well, it was when I first wanted to play in an NRL grand final myself and follow in his footsteps. It inspired me a lot."
A few years later Hughes moved to Queensland and played rugby league for powerhouse school Palm Beach Currumbin High.
"There was no rugby union so I had to play rugby league and I was playing with the likes of Kane Elgey, Lloyd Perrett. From there I went and played SG Ball with the Roosters for a bit," Hughes said.
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"Then I was with the Titans and Cowboys before I found a home at the Storm."
Hughes explained how two back operations hampered his early development before Bellamy gave him the confidence to become a regular first-grader in his switch from fullback to the No.7 jersey.
According to a NewsCorp report earlier this week, the Storm made an informal inquiry in 2015 about the contract situation of Nathan Cleary - Hughes's opposite number on Sunday - as they surveyed the landscape for a successor to Cooper Cronk.
"Someone just told me about that," Hughes grinned.
"If Cleary did sign I probably wouldn't be here, but I am not salty about it at all.
"I was a fullback back then anyway and it is not as though the Storm didn't believe I could play that role when I came here.
"Cleary is a good player, so I don't know why people wouldn't look at him."
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For Hughes, Cronk is always just a phone call away. The retired Storm legend has already sent a text to Hughes this week congratulating him on making the grand final and offering his assistance.
"I probably will reach out to him for some tips this week," Hughes said.
"It is an honour to wear the number seven jersey that Cooper wore, and [1999 premiership winner] Brett Kimmorley and all the guys that went before.
"At the Storm that is never a burden. We see it as an opportunity to etch our own little bit of history in the book.
"No one wants me to play or be like the person that has worn the seven before. It is all about making it my own."