Big Mal, what have you done for us lately?
Mal Meninga and Ricky Stuart have been letting loose recently (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
From a statistical perspective, Mal Meninga is held in a high regard by rugby league. As both a player and coach he has achieved many records, and it’s only a matter of time before he moves into that ivory Phillps St penthouse with the game’s other Immortals.
But, to the real owners of the game, the fans, Mal’s story is one of disappointment. More so than this Mal (if that is his real name) can be seen to have in fact let us down repeatedly.
This was seen again on the weekend when Meninga cruelly denied us salt of the earth rugby league lovers media interviews with a pair of his players. What a despicable, petulant act.
Here we all were perched on the edge of our recliners waiting for the exclusive. We wanted to hear Cameron Smith telling us how preparation so far had been “Yeah…pretty good,” or maybe some of the hard hitting journos asking Ben Teo about his shock Queensland defection…three years after he was named in the Queensland emerging players squad.
To add Twitter insult to injury the media was also banned from attending the Maroons training session. Now we won’t even get to see the file footage of Justin Hodges stretching his quads, or Jason Hetherington and Gilly squinting off into the distance.
Unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons for fans not to like Meninga.
Remember the ’90 and ’94 Kangaroo tours? Australia had been Invincible and Unbeatable on their last two sojourns, but suddenly Big Mal takes the reins and whoops, there goes the first test and the unbeaten run. All of a sudden we have to make do with a crummy old thrilling decider and come from behind series victory at a packed Elland Road against the most exciting British team for twenty five years.
And then there was his Origin farewell. So much hype, but then fizzzzzzzz, his team gets done by the best ever NSW side. All he could manage from his farewell year for the fans in Australia was a crappy third premiership.
Having hoisted the Winfield Cup without breaking it for once, Mal then goes and refuses to sign on for the South Queensland Crushers. A premiership with only one club? Who does he think he is, Sean Rudder?
Post retirement has yielded similarly disappointing returns from Mal for Joe Punter in the stands.
While more charitable retired players would give us a laugh by taking the mickey in discount clothing commercials or providing insight by giving out snide remarks to the press, Mal put his hand up to coach despite having only been out of the game for two seasons. And what does he deliver? Just three finals appearances with a team stacked with talent like Royston Lightning and Jamahl Lolesi.
Mal then had the audacity to think about entering politics, only to pull out when he thought that it went against his personal values. Well boo hoo. Surely he should have just took the celebrity votes and milked the big pay packet for a couple of years Peter Garrett-style. Doesn’t he know that this is what the Australian public demands of power hungry ex-celebs.
After falling off the grid doing God knows what for a few years (you know, successful franchise here, celebrity property endorsement there), in waltzed big Mal ready to ride on the back of Michael Hagan’s coaching coattails and take the reins for Queensland.
And yeah, look, I guess he’s done alright I suppose (although I hear Hagan might be still secretly pulling the strings). But, look at all the great players he’s got going for him. Really, if Queensland fail to win say, minimum 10 titles in a row, then Meninga’s place in the game will probably always be a bit iffy.
Word is that he’s quietly confident of a win on Wednesday night, and he better bloody well be, because after all us onlookers had to put up with from the bloke, isn’t it time he finally delivered something for us? The fans?
Follow Chris on Twitter: Vic_Arious@twitter.com
Chris Chard is a sports humour writer commenting on the often absurd nature of professional sport. A rugby league fan boy with a good blend of youth and experience taking things one week at a time, Chris has written for The Roar, Rugby League Player Magazine, US Sports Downunder, the QRL and People. Tweet him @Vic_Arious