New Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga moves to Sydney to go in-depth with NRL clubs
DAVID RICCIO CHIEF SPORTS WRITERThe Sunday Telegraph
NEW Test coach Mal Meninga says his decision to move to Sydney for the first time in his career signals his intent to deliver the same success to the national team he achieved over the past decade in charge of Queensland.
The father of three children under three will spend Christmas on the hunt for a new family base, with the decision to call the Harbour City home next year a strategic one.
The move is designed to allow him to easily visit the players and coaches from all nine NRL clubs in Sydney in his role as Kangaroos head coach.
“If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it properly,’’ Meninga told The Sunday Telegraph.
“My plan is to try to be based in Sydney by the end of February, early March and once I get myself settled personally, that will give me an opportunity to move around the clubs.
“Especially in Sydney, there’s nine there. I need to be kept abreast of current trends in the game, the coaching and training methods.
“I want to continually meet the players. I’m pretty familiar with the others, being Canberra, Melbourne, the Cowboys, Titans and Broncos systems.
“I won’t have the Queensland cap on, so I won’t be kicked out of the NSW clubs — I’ll be neutral and unbiased.
“I’ve got ties now with Sony Entertainment, so I think it’s in my best interests to move to Sydney. And from the family point of view, it’s close to my wife’s family down in Canberra, so it’s actually a nice fit.
“Canberra’s always been home for me. I know how to get around Sydney. But you might see me on a bike, a very big bike with very big wheels on it to carry me.’’
Taking over from Tim Sheens, Meninga will sit down with the ARL Commission in the New Year to plan a new-look international charter for the Kangaroos.
The meeting is likely to lead to one of the game’s most significant overhauls of the international calendar.
“We want to create a program where the players are again excited to pull on the green and gold,’’ Meninga said.
“That’s why we’ll be talking about an international nines tournament, maybe Australia A internationals so that the next generation of players are part of an emerging program, but are playing on an international stage.
“Rugby union do it well with Bledisloe, World Cup and Five Nations, their Sevens — we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to do what we used to do.
“Mini-Kangaroo tours are an example, whether it be going over there and playing clubs … just to get everyone excited about the international program again.
“I’m looking forward to the New Year when we can get around a table and start discussing those things.’’
THE FUTURE OF DAD’S ARMY
Immediate selections for Australia over the past eight to 10 years, captain Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Paul Gallen and Cooper Cronk are all climbing towards their mid-30s in 2016.
Meninga’s ability to regenerate the Kangaroos’ ageing roster before the May Test against New Zealand will cause much debate in the lead-up to the midyear Test match against New Zealand.
“My philosophy on rep football, and I’ve been part of that for a long time, is that you pick your best players regardless of age,’’ Meninga said.
“You show respect and then if you create an honest and successful environment, the players will tell you when it’s time.
“In that environment, I should also be able to tap them on the shoulder as well and say listen, your time is up.
“That’s the environment I created with the Maroons, I don’t put deadlines on people.’’
THE NEXT COACH OF THE MAROONS
Meninga was appointed Test coach 24 days ago yet his position as the Queensland Origin coach remains vacant after Paul Green declined the QRL’s approach. Meninga described the situation as “strange’’ while backing the one man who wants the job, Kevin Walters.
“The Qld Rugby League would’ve been disappointed that Paul didn’t take the job,’’ Meninga said.
“But you look at Paul and I think he’s made the decision for the right reasons.
“It is difficult, because it is a dedicated position in my opinion, so the Queensland Rugby League have got to work their way through that.
“I talk to Kevvy all the time and obviously he was disappointed — shattered would probably be a better word.
“I’m not quite sure whether he’s back in the picture or not.
“I think Kevvy can do the job. He’s been in our system the last two years, but four years prior to that he’s been in some really strong coaching systems, whether it be the Storm, or Broncos or under Wayne (Bennett) at Newcastle, he coached Queensland Cup plus in the English Super League, so I don’t think experience is his issue at all.’’