Could Bennett come to Maroons' rescue after Mal's exit?

Wayne Bennett
Wayne Bennett Rob Williams

Queensland could go back to the well one last time with an Origin SOS to Broncos master coach Wayne Bennett.

The big question, however, is would the seven-time premiership-winning coach be willing to come to Queensland's rescue 14 years after he last led the Maroons to interstate glory.

The Queensland Rugby League has officially begun its search to replace its most successful Origin coach after the Australian Rugby League finally confirmed Mal Meninga's appointment as Kangaroos coach on a four-year deal worth more than $1 million.

QRL chairman Peter Betros refused to speculate or endorse Meninga's possible replacement when questioned about a range of candidates outside Suncorp Stadium.

However he reaffirmed there was no rule in place preventing an NRL club coach from replacing Meninga.

"The Queensland rugby league is very, very sad to lose Mal as its Origin coach after he delivered us nine series wins in his 10 years at the helm," Betros said.

"We all wish him the very best in the Kangaroos job and we know he will do fabulous job. The Australian Rugby League Commission is determined to get the Kangaroos back on top of world rugby league."

Bennett, who coached the Maroons to back-to-back Origin series wins in 1987 and 1988 (a clean sweep) received a call from the QRL in 1998 after claims his Broncos stars and non-Super League players could not get on in camp.

Queensland won the series 2-1.

Queensland state of Origin coach Mal Meninga. Photo: AAP Image/Julian Smith.
Queensland state of Origin coach Mal Meninga. Photo: AAP Image/Julian Smith.

The Maroons again turned to Bennett in 2001 after they that been whitewashed 3-0 by the Blues the previous year.

The master coach responded by orchestrating champion Allan Langer's shock return from the UK to steer the Queenslanders to a stunning 40-14 series-deciding win in game three.

It's not exactly dire straights for Queensland now with Meninga having served up nine series wins - a record eight of them in a row - over the past 10 years.

Betros, refused to rule out anyone from the job, saying the QRL's only focus was to secure the best person to replace Meninga, even though he admitted that would be a tough act to follow.

Meninga's former assistant Kevin Walters is one of the early favourites for the job.

But it's understood Cowboys coach Paul Green has expressed his interest after winning his maiden premiership with North Queensland, beating Bennett's Broncos and ending his seven-straight NRL premiership record.

Other names in the mix include Brisbane, Queensland and Australian great Darren Lockyer, Gold Coast coach Neil Henry, former Queensland captain Trevor Gillmeister and Michael Hagan who has been Meninga's technical adviser for several years.

The QRL said it was is keen to lock in a new coach before the end of the month.

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