There are a number of recently-retired Queensland greats who could replace Paul Green after the Origin coach’s contract was not renewed for 2022.
Paul Green’s exit as Queensland coach after just one campaign could open an NRL door as soon as next season and leave a former Maroons great at the Origin helm.
The former North Queensland premiership winner was relieved of his duties on Tuesday, Green explaining his NRL head coaching ambitions weren’t in line with the QRL’s desire for a long-term, single-minded mentor.
Results weren’t in his favour as the Maroons were spanked 56-6 and 26-0 to meekly surrender the series pinched from NSW by a plucky side a year earlier.
COVID-19 logistics, last-minute injuries and health scares as well as Ronaldo Mulitalo’s game-day withdrawal over eligibility concerns left QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher to proclaim Green endured “the most exceptional circumstances in the history of Origin”.
But they wanted a long-term coach and Green said, at least beyond next season, he couldn’t commit as he yearned another crack at an NRL title.
It means he’s on the market now and could be in the mix for the Wests Tigers gig with Michael Maguire under immense pressure following his side’s horror finish to the season.
And it leaves the likes of former Maroons greats Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and even Cameron Smith in line to replace Green in the maroon jacket.
Appointed as a QRL independent director in July, Cooper Cronk has endorsed both his former Storm teammates Smith and Slater as future Queensland coaches while Thurston served as Green’s assistant this year.
“He’s got the presence when he walks into a room,” Cronk said of Slater on Fox Sports in July.
“I think Kalyn Ponga is definitely going to respond to Billy Slater, Cameron Smith or Johnathan Thurston. He’s got the work ethic and he’s got the science behind it and they also know what works when they were coached by Mal (Meninga).
“They know their role is important but it is not the most important thing. Coaching Origin to me is about getting your medium-tier players, your role players to play seven, move that up to eight out of 10 and the most important thing is to get your guns to play 9.5 to 10 out of 10.”
Master coach Wayne Bennett orchestrated one of the great Origin upsets when he took control in 2020 and is set to finish with South Sydney at the end of this season.
But his interest in a role with an expansion club in Brisbane from 2023 would rule him out under the QRL’s new stance.
Meninga won eight straight series between 2006-2013 and is another option if he can be coaxed away from his Kangaroos job.