Sunday 18 February 2018 / 09:39 PM


Mal Meninga is the reason why the Queensland Maroons are still winning State of Origin.

Why is that scary, England, New Zealand and the rest of the rugby league world? Because he laid the platform for Queensland’s success. And he is doing the same with Australia.

When Meninga took over as Queensland coach in 2006, the state hadn’t won a series for five years. By the time he finished in 2015, they’d won nine out of 10 series.

After the Maroons clinched a fourth consecutive series win in 2009, the Queensland captain, Darren Lockyer, said of Meninga:

“He’s brought his values and qualities that he had as a player at the Origin level, and the success he had, and instilled it into this group.

“He’s got to take a major rap for what we’ve done and I think he’s been the real difference for the Queensland side in the last few years.

“It’s just been a great environment that he’s created for us all. The players, particularly the younger ones but even the older ones as well, have learnt a lot from Mal.”

If you look back at the respective Origin teams of 2005, Queensland is weaker on paper. In fact, New South Wales had seemingly always managed to count on a few players who had X-factor talent, such as Andrew Johns, Anthony Minichiello, Jamie Lyon, Jarryd Hayne.

But Queensland seemed to play as more than the sum of all their parts, not relying on a magic play.

Meninga had a very clear vision about what he wanted for his Maroons. After three straight series defeats, he wanted to put respect back into the jersey, making his players aware of the history and traditions behind it. He stood loyal in his team selections and it was through this policy that Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater rose as ever-present leaders.

The Maroons seem like a big happy family. Meninga gets that.

Now with the Kangaroos, he’s had the same impact. We know about the R.I.S.E ethos, born out of an honesty session with all players about what the Australian jersey meant to them. Meninga wants his Kangaroos to be good people first. They are talented enough to win most Test matches but the coach is thinking about the big picture – about how the Kangaroos impact rugby league worldwide.

Daily Telegraph editor Phil Rothfield tells a good story from an interview he did with Meninga in early-2015 that showed how passionate the coach is about rugby league.

During the Brisbane flood disaster of 2011, Meninga’s collection of football memorabilia was essentially destroyed – including most of his 46 Test jerseys.

“They were filthy,” Meninga said, “So one by one I got them commercially dry-cleaned.”

Meninga’s approach to representative football is as unique as any. He goes in with a long-term view. The results will seemingly take care of themselves as long as he builds a strong internal culture, where accountability, pride in the jersey and mateship is high.

Australia are yet to lose a Test under Meninga. Upon evidence of yet another Queensland Origin victory this week, his Australian coaching career may continue along this vein for a while yet.

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About the author

Andrew Marmont

Andrew is a freelance writer, producer and presenter. He writes for Big League, Rugby League World and Inside Sport. His book ‘Their Finest Hour: A History of the Rugby League World Cup in 10 Matches’ will be published in July 2017

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