Rugby League Immortal and Australian Test Coach Mal Meninga has joined the Gold Coast Titans as the club’s business-wide, Head of Performance and Culture, to help drive a winning environment across the entire organisation.
Mr Meninga, named in July as the code’s 13th Immortal, will move to the Gold Coast from Canberra with wife Amanda and their three young children to join the Titans.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said a condition of the appointment was that Meninga’s national coaching duties would continue to have top priority.
“Mal is required throughout the year to promote the game, providing mentoring and assistance to young players and to assist with the elite level of the game,” Mr Greenberg said.
"But since there are no Kangaroos matches until the end of the 2019 season he will have capacity to devote to the Titans’ role.
“It is crucial that we do all we can to protect and develop rugby league in the heartland of the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales and I have no doubt Mal will help achieve that.”
Mr Greenberg said he had met with the Titans, Mr Meninga and Mr Meninga’s management Parade Sports (a division of Sony Music Entertainment) to ensure conflicts of interests were avoided with the new role.
“The NRL needs a strong team on the Gold Coast and Mal’s track record of success -including building winning team cultures at State and national level - will help achieve that.”
Dennis Watt, Executive Chairman of the Gold Coast Titans, said the club’s recruitment of Mr Meninga into such a senior and over-arching role would be a foundation stone for the Gold Coast’s new direction under the new ownership team of the Frizelle and Kelly families.
Darryl and Joanne Kelly, with Brett and Rebecca Frizelle won the bid to take over the Titans in December last year after three years of NRL ownership.
“To have someone like Mal Meninga, with everything that he has achieved in the game, be so excited about joining the Titans is a terrific show of faith and belief in the strength, leadership and potential of the Gold Coast,” Mr Watt said.
"Mal was an outstanding player over his career with Brisbane Souths, Canberra, St Helens, Queensland and Australia.
“But what he has been able to achieve, and continues to achieve, in his coaching career with Queensland and Australia, shows that he is a master at creating winning cultures. He unifies and ensures a total buy-in from the people around him.”
Mr Meninga said he had jumped at the opportunity to join the Titans and to contribute to the growth and success of the club and to rugby league generally in northern New South Wales and Gold Coast.
"I can feel there is something special building at the Titans. The NRL needs rugby league and the Titans to be strong in the area. It is one of the game’s heartlands and it is no secret that it is under threat from rival codes who are investing heavily to own the territory.’
“I want to see all young kids in the Titans’ catchment area - boys and girls - growing up aspiring to play for the Titans, for their respective states and their country.”
Titans coach Garth Brennan said he was looking forward to working with Meninga to help build on the growing momentum within the club.
“Mal is a legend of the game and clearly has much to offer with his insights on leadership and winning cultures. He will be a great sounding board for myself and the coaching staff.”
Mr Meninga’s role would include helping to drive the commercial strength of the business as part of ensuring the Titans were competing on an equal footing with the heavyweight NRL clubs.
Mr Meninga said the decision to move to the Coast was not an easy one for himself and wife Amanda who have three children - Zach, 6, Elijah, 5, and Eva, 3.
"However, the opportunity to move and to work alongside a leadership team of Darryl Kelly, Rebecca Frizelle, Dennis Watt and coach Garth Brennan left me in no doubt that this was a chance too good to pass up.
“I have said on several occasions I have no desire to return to NRL club coaching and that remains the case. But working with the Titans - the youngest club in the NRL - in this role allows me to contribute to the game at club level with new and different challenges,” he said.
Mr Meninga said he was very grateful to Todd Greenberg, the NRL and the ARLC for their advice and guidance.
“Coaching Australia is a great source of pride for me and it will continue to be my priority. The Titans are happy for me to continue in that role and I have no doubt I can combine the two roles successfully,” he said.
Denis Handlin AO, Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment and Director Parade Sports said:
"I have tremendous respect for Mal both personally and professionally, and his incomparable achievements on and off the field.
"Mal has outstanding leadership qualities and has been instrumental in establishing winning cultures and performance in many different environments. He brings proven capability and a track record to the Titans.
"I have seen Mal’s leadership qualities first hand in my role as a mentor of the Queensland State of Origin and Australian teams for 13 years.
"I know Mal is thrilled with the opportunity to work across the entire Titans’ organisation in this area.
“I would like to personally thank and commend Todd Greenberg, Darryl Kelly and Dennis Watt for the collaborative way in which they have worked together,” Mr Handlin said.
Mal’s playing and coaching career
Few in rugby league have been able to match Meninga’s record as player and a coach and in recognition of his work for the game and the community he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1994 and named as a Queensland Great in 2016.
As the dominant centre of his generation, he played in a remarkable nine grand finals for Brisbane Souths and Canberra, winning five (1981 and 1985 with Souths; 1989-90 and 1994 with the Raiders.)
He was captain for all three Canberra titles. Meninga also won the premiership and the Lancashire County Cup with St Helens during his stint in the English competition in the 1984-85 season
Meninga played in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980, kicking seven goals from seven attempts on his 20th birthday in Queensland’s historic 20-10 win.
He would go on to captain Queensland in three series from 1992-94 and retired with records (since surpassed) for most appearances in Origin history and most points scored in Origin history.
For Australia, he played a then-record 46 games for the Kangaroos between 1982 and 1994, scoring 21 tries and 278 points.
Meninga captained Australia between 1990 and 1994 and is the only man in history to play on four Kangaroos’ tours (1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994.) In July this year, he was inducted as the 13th member of “The Immortals”, the prestigious and exclusive group chosen as the greatest to have played rugby league in Australia.
He is a member of the Rugby League Hall of Fame, and during the Centenary celebrations in 2008, Meninga was named in the Queensland and Australian teams of the century.
As a coach, he had four seasons with Canberra from 1997-2001 but it was in the representative arena where he excelled in winning 9 out of 10 series as Queensland State of Origin coach from 2006-2015.
In taking over as Kangaroos’ coach in 2016, Meninga began another era of dominance for the national side, culminating with victory in the 2018 Rugby League World Cup.