Wayne Bennett and Mal Meninga have struck only an uneasy truce to combine for Queensland Origin duty, while ex-NSW captain Paul Gallen has questioned the Kangaroos coach’s presence.
South Sydney’s Bennett was preferred over Australian Test boss Meninga for the Maroons coaching job, after Kevin Walters vacated the role to take over the Broncos. Meninga, an iconic Queensland captain and coach, then accepted an invitation to work with Bennett despite his Kangaroos role.
Bennett and Meninga have engaged in an ongoing feud, largely linked to Meninga winning the Kangaroos job over Bennett in 2015, meaning their partnership will add a fascinating dynamic to the Origin series.
“When the idea of a new Queensland coach was floated, Mal was asked to put his name up and then they went with Wayne,” Nine NRL reporter Danny Weidler said on 100% Footy.
“I think Mal got his nose out of joint, probably rightly so because they wanted him to get involved.
“Then, Wayne gets the job of all of a sudden. Mal and Wayne don’t really get along that well, they’ve had their issues in the past. But Wayne was asked whether he’d accept Mal and Wayne said, ‘Yep, Mal’s in’.
“It adds to the theatre of Origin. I don’t know if it adds to the credibility of the game, because Mal’s the Australian coach; but there’s no Australian side to coach at the moment, so that’s the excuse the NRL will use when people question that.”
An Australia vs England Ashes series planned for the end of this year was cancelled due to COVID-19 and also the rescheduling of the Origin series.
‘That’s the only excuse they’ve got, the fact there’s no [Test] games,” Gallen said on 100% Footy.
“It’s got to be a bit weird, the Australian coach being in camp. It’s so tribal, State of Origin, and I know some of the things that are said in there.
“You’ve got the Australian coach in there in one camp against the Blues; especially if the Blues are going to win 3-0, which they probably will, I wouldn’t want an Australian team picked at the end of it!”
Bennett names new-look Maroons squad
Meninga won an extraordinary 11 Origin series in 12 years, including eight in a row, during his previous stint at Queensland coach. Bennett is also a champion Maroons boss.
Yet NSW have won the pat two series under Brad Fittler and are gunning for a three-peat, with what is regarded as a significantly stronger squad than Queensland.
The Origin series will be played over three consecutive weeks this year, starting on November 4 in Adelaide.