This article follows on from my recent article ‘The Australian coaches dream team‘ and this time I have selected a team made up of some of the great players who have coached either New South Wales or Queensland since State of Origin began in 1980.
While certainly not as strong as the team selected from the Australia coaches, it further debunks the myth about the best players not making the best coaches. Any team boasting the likes of Wally Lewis, Wayne Pearce, Brad Fittler and Laurie Daley can’t be taken lightly.
There was a lot of talent to choose from, and to avoid repetition I have not included any of the Australian coaches named in the previous article, so ruled out were Terry Fearnley (NSW), Tim Sheens (NSW), Ricky Stuart (NSW), Arthur Beetson (QLD) and Mal Meninga (QLD).
In the interests of equity I have also selected an (almost) equal number of coaches from both New South Wales and Queensland.
Missing the final cut were John Peard (NSW), Graham Murray (NSW), Ted Glossop (NSW) and Graham Lowe (QLD).
All in all, this is a quality side that would be hard to beat.
1. Ron Willey (NSW)
He coached New South Wales seven times for five wins and was a very good player who played over 200 games at the top level for Canterbury, Manly and Parramatta. He represented both New South Wales and Queensland and was a Kangaroo tourist in 1952. He was also a handy goal kicker and had a long and successful career as a club coach, winning two premierships with Manly.
2. Wayne Bennett (QLD)
He coached Australia 16 times for 12 wins, England 15 times for ten wins and Great Britain four times without success. He played his whole career in the Brisbane competition and represented Queensland on seven occasions. Bennett was selected for Australia on the 1971 tour of New Zealand. He coached Queensland, including Super League, on 27 occasions for 16 victories. He has an unparalleled record as a first-grade coach, winning seven premierships.
3. Kevin Walters (QLD)
Walters coached Queensland 12 times for six wins, and he played 11 Tests for Australia and represented Queensland 23 times, including Super League. Equally at home at either centre or in the halves, Walters has won six premierships in his near 300 game playing career.
4. Laurie Daley (NSW)
He coached New South Wales 15 times for six wins. He had a stellar playing career, playing 26 times for each of Australia and New South Wales, including in the Super League, and 244 games for Canberra, winning three premierships. He’s one of the greatest players of the modern era.
5. John McDonald (QLD)
The winning coach in the very first State of Origin game in 1980. A tall, speedy outside back, he played most of his career in the Brisbane competition from where he was first selected to represent both Queensland and Australia. He played the 1969-71 seasons with Manly and represented Australia 13 times, Queensland nine times and New South Wales three times.
6. Wally Lewis (QLD)
A rugby league immortal who coached Queensland six times for two wins. He is one of the greatest players of all time and saved his best for the representative arena. Lewis played 34 Tests for Australia and 38 games for Queensland, including 30 as captain.
7. Tom Raudonikis (NSW)
One of the toughest players and best half backs to ever lace on a boot, Raudonikis coached New South Wales six times for three wins. He played 20 Tests for Australia and 24 times for New South Wales, the last as captain in the very first Origin match. He played 239 first-grade games for Wests and Newtown.
8. Des Morris (QLD)
Morris coached the Maroons in three matches in 1985 for just the one win. He was a very successful player and coach in the Brisbane competition and represented Queensland on 15 occasions.
9. Mark Murray (QLD)
Murray coached Queensland six times for just the one win. Not normally a hooker, Murray was tough and resourceful enough to play anywhere on the paddock. He played and coached in the Brisbane competition with great distinction over a long period, represented Australia six times and turned out for the Maroons in 17 Origin matches.
10. Jack Gibson (NSW)
Gibson coached New South Wales on six occasions, surprisingly for only two wins, but both of those came in 1990 to win the series. His club coaching career of 394 games, with a win ratio of 62 per cent and five premierships, was a far better representation of his innovative coaching style. He played over 150 games for Easts, Newtown and Wests in a 13-year playing career. He also represented New South Wales six times.
11. Wayne Pearce (NSW)
Pearce coached New South Wales on nine occasions, winning five, including a clean sweep victory in 2000. He also coached Balmain for six seasons leading up to the merger with Wests and was the Wests Tigers coach in their inaugural season in 2000. Pearce was a playing legend throughout the 1980s, including as captain of Balmain from 1982 to 1990, and played 16 Origins for New South Wales and 19 Tests for Australia.
12. Paul Vautin (QLD)
Vautin coached Queensland nine times for four wins, famously winning the 1995 series against all odds and then losing the next two. Beginning his career in the Brisbane competition, he went on to play 259 first-grade games, winning one premiership. He was a Queensland Origin regular, donning the maroon jersey 22 times, and played 13 Tests for Australia.
13. Brad Fittler (NSW)
One of the superstars of the modern game, Fittler has done it all. He has coached New South Wales nine times for five wins, winning both the 2018 and 2019 series before unexpectedly losing in 2020. He also coached the Roosters for three seasons without any success. He began his career with Penrith before making his home with Easts, playing over 330 first-grade games in his 16-year career at the top and winning two premierships. He played 31 Origin matches for New South Wales and 38 Test matches for Australia.
14. Frank Stanton (NSW)
Stanton coached New South Wales 11 times between 1978 and 1984, including six times during the Origin era. He lost both Origin series 2-1. Stanton coached 344 top-grade games and won two premierships with Manly. He was a very good centre or halfback in his playing career, playing 129 first-grade games for Manly and two for New South Wales, and he was selected on the 1963 Kangaroo tour.
15. Michael Hagan (QLD)
Hagan coached Queensland in six games, winning two but failing to win a series. He also coached over 200 first-grade games, winning a premiership with Newcastle in 2001. A very talented and durable utility back, Hagan played over 180 first-grade games for Canterbury and Newcastle and five Origin matches for Queensland.
16. Phil Gould (NSW)
Gould coached New South Wales in 24 games across eight Origin series, incredibly winning six series and drawing one. He has coached nearly 290 first-grade games, winning two premierships. A clever ball-playing back-rower with a kicking game in his playing days, he played over 100 first-grade games.
17. Craig Bellamy (NSW)
Bellamy has coached New South Wales in three series, winning just two games. He’s fared much better as a coach with the Storm though, winning three premierships in his 465-game coaching career. A handy utility player in his playing days with Canberra, he won one premiership in his 148-game career.