Mal Meninga has been kindly asked to not return to NRL just yet.
Having had a 10-year hiatus since his painful stint at Canberra, Meninga feels he is ready to return to the NRL, a belief re-affirmed by his guiding the Maroons to a remarkable five consecutive Origin series wins.
But the QRL is refusing to give up hope of losing Meninga, who has nothing left to prove in the Origin arena after his record-breaking dynasty at the helm of the Maroons.
“I’d love to see Mal go around again,” QRL chief executive Ross Livermore said.
“I haven’t had any indication from Mal that this will be his last year. He’s enjoying the success and the comradeship of the Queensland guys.
“We’ve got some great young kids coming through and, while he has Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva firing, he would say, ‘geez, I’m not too old for this job’.” Meninga is already in demand as a top-grade mentor, with the Brisbane bid consortium targeting the 50-year-old to become its foundation coach if granted entry to the NRL in 2013.
The former Raiders ace is clearly weighing up his Origin future.
This week, Meninga nominated Lockyer and Civoniceva as potential Origin coaches to carry on his legacy.
Livermore said the QRL would have no issues if Meninga, who took charge of the Maroons in 2006 with Queensland rugby league in disarray, decided it was time for a new challenge.
“Mal has been a wonderful ambassador for Queensland rugby league and the game through the success of State of Origin. If we win six in a row this year, I wouldn’t blame him for wanting to give it a miss (next year) and go and do something else,” Livermore said.
“I think he will decide in his own time, win or lose, when he goes. They say you should retire when you’re on top, but I don’t think Mal will be thinking that way.”
Meninga signed a three-year deal with the QRL after the 2008 Origin series, but Livermore said the term of any contract would be brokered in consultation with the coach.
“It would depend what Mal’s view is. There’s no point doing three years if Mal only wants one more year,” he said.
“After you’ve won five or six series, it’s a good bargaining tool . . .
“Mal will want to consider things after this series. You don’t know what offers he might receive from other NRL sides, he might not want to tie himself down to Origin and find he then has an NRL offer.”
Buford Balony says: It’s a bit different coaching an NRL team, than a team full of stars in Origin that anyone could have coach to 5 series wins.