State of Origin 3
State of Origin 3

Origin SOS: Maroons legend in the frame for return

Mal Meninga could make a stunning return as Queensland coach if Kevin Walters is forced to walk away from the Maroons to take charge of the Broncos.

Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher told News Corp Meninga was discussed on Monday as a Plan B option to answer an SOS if Walters resigns ahead of the historic November Origin series.

Walters has been formally told he is the Broncos coach, and Brisbane are likely to ask the Queensland coach to stand down immediately.

That would leave the Maroons scrambling for a viable replacement and several potential candidates have been thrown up, including Wayne Bennett and former Cowboys coach Paul Green.

 

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Mal Meninga and Cameron Smith after winning State of Origin in 2015. Picture: Adam Head
Mal Meninga and Cameron Smith after winning State of Origin in 2015. Picture: Adam Head

 

But Meninga has emerged as a left-field contender.

The NRL Immortal is the greatest coach in Origin history, having won nine of 10 series at the helm of the Maroons before quitting at the end of 2015 to take charge of the Australia Kangaroos.

But with the Kangaroos unable to play a Test match this season due to the COVID crisis, the NRL could give Meninga dispensation to launch a comeback cameo with the Maroons.

Hatcher tonight confirmed Meninga is one option being considered by the Queensland Rugby League as they brace for Walters' announcement as Broncos coach.

"Yes, Mal's name was discussed (on Monday)," Hatcher said.

"One of our directors raised it and it's certainly worth consideration.

"He is the full-time Kangaroos coach without any work because of coronavirus.

"He is in a situation where the Kangaroos aren't playing and who knows if the World Cup will go ahead next year with this pandemic?

 

 

"Generally, the rule is that if you are Australian coach, you can't coach Queensland or NSW for fairly obvious reasons.

"But I don't think there is any doubt these are exceptional times and if 'Kevvie' is lost to the Broncos, then it's quite possible that Mal could be a contingency for us.

"Mal Meninga coming back (to coach Queensland) is definitely a possibility."

Meninga engineered the most formidable dynasty in Origin history.

Appointed in 2006, he steered the Maroons to eight consecutive series wins on the back of his aura and Queensland superstars Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.

 

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Meninga, who won 20 of 30 games as Origin coach, remains in touch with NRL systems in his role as Titans culture chief and has an unrivalled understanding of the Queensland set-up.

"Mal would certainly know the job well, he has done it all for the Maroons," Hatcher said.

"We're going through a process of what we are going to do if we lose Kevin. We would consult Kevin, but we can't pull the trigger until we hear something formally from the Broncos on whether they are going with Kevin or Paul Green.

"Mal had a great period of success, he did a magnificent job and made history winning eight straight series with the Queensland side.

"We've got a committee at the QRL and we will look at the available options if we are forced to consider a replacement for Kevin.

"Kevvie has spent the whole year preparing for this series and now he might not be a part of it, so we would need someone who can hit the ground running and Mal could do that."

Originally published as Origin SOS: Maroons legend in the frame for return