The NRL’s first female referee, Belinda Sharpe, has spoken with the media ahead of her trailblazing debut.
Mal Meninga has finally begun his career as a rugby league coach, just two decades after chaperoning some of the greatest rugby league teams of all time, and the Canberra Raiders.
After years copping a large salary to prepare the game’s finest self-saucing cakes, the Kangaroos coach has been forced in to the role after a gradual departure of phenoms stranded him with the unfamiliar duty of having to instruct a team of footballers.
Before now, Meninga earned his supercoach status with a philosophy of sharing allegiances with Cameron Smith, Johnathon Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, and their supporting cast microchipped to run lines and protect state secrets.
But with all four now writing history and profiting from AFL, the new Immortal has to adopt a more ‘hands on’ approach of coaching, that being actual coaching.
Meninga debuted in the role on Saturday night, with his beige, prodigy-devoid Kangaroos overrun 26-24 by New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium.
While his new-look side displayed great endeavour, the match will be forever remembered for the coach failing at his first major test – overseeing a team hampered by mortals and New South Welshmen.
However, fans are not slamming the panic button after the shameful defeat, despite the radical change that now requires Meninga to coach.
While a small pocket were concerned about a Kangaroos outfit that had been decaying on Meninga’s watch for almost 40 minutes, most are now prepared to grant him patience to grow in to his new role.
This gives Meninga precisely one week to restore pride in the jersey with a win over Andrew Fifita, or at the very least, find a suitable scapegoat if they don’t – meaning starts for Ben Hunt and Daly Cherry-Evans.
But whatever the result come full-time against Tonga, Meninga’s foray in to the ranks of torture and frustration marks an exciting new period in his career as a ‘coach’.
He was hired to take over the Kangaroos in 2016 with a mandate to Make Australia Australia Again, which basically meant returning the side to killing off the international game.
This followed nine years of assembling the Queensland Galacticos for its annual deflation of New South Wales, a role which reached its most strenuous when Meninga had to stretch over a bar to pour his own beers in the Brisbane CBD.
It was a breezy period of ritual triumph for the former international, as evidenced by his indomitable win/loss record and strong hairline.
But move forward to 2018, and its time to tackle life without a self-operating vacuum cleaner that cleans up the untidiness of players from other states.
Supplementary buzzy stuff like man management and issuing cursory commands like speaking to a Google Home might not be enough to win Test matches, or worse, keep the rats and filth at bay.
Meninga may have to give instructions for the first time since the nineties that aren’t “whatever you blokes did at Suncorp in Game 2”, or alternatively, ask Michael Hagan to work another 14 hours per day.