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Maroons great Mal Meninga red-faced over bronze look

Date

Laine Clark

Mal Meninga and his statue at Suncorp Stadium.

Mal Meninga and his statue at Suncorp Stadium.

Never comfortable in the limelight, Mal Meninga has tried to deflect attention at his statue unveiling by suggesting Allan Langer should be the next Queensland rugby league great immortalised outside Suncorp Stadium.

All eyes were on Meninga for the statue launch as he took time out from his champion team's final countdown for Wednesday night's 100th State of Origin game.

A young Meninga in full flight fittingly presided next to the statue of his idol Artie Beetson, with the bronze likeness of fellow Maroons legends Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer just a cut-out pass away.

Meninga, 53, could not hide his pride or embarrassment.

Posing for yet another photo in front of his rampaging likeness after formalities, a sweating Meninga said: "Hopefully one day, there will be another statue – maybe [former halfback] Alf [Langer] – let's get that campaign started.

"I will be honest with you. I didn't get much sleep last night because I was worried about this, not tonight's game. This is a really humbling experience. I get embarrassed by it, but I accept it on behalf of all the people I played with and my family as well.

"I am not the type of person who likes being in the public eye. If there is something I want to say, I will say it. But I like to put the team out front."

Queensland usually finished out in front thanks to Meninga with ball or clipboard in hand. The former barnstorming centre played 32 Origins, amassing a record 161 points, including a seven-from-seven effort with the boot in the inaugural 1980 clash that is still to be bettered by a Queenslander.

As a coach, Meninga is Origin's most successful with 17 wins and is on an unprecedented eight series run.

Asked whether he was given a choice of being immortalised as a coach or a player, Meninga said: "The second best job is coaching. The best is playing when you can go out there and do something about it."

Meninga might have earned a statue but he rated his current Queensland team as one of Origin's greatest.

"Origin brings Queensland together and that's what gives me so much pleasure in coaching this football team – they get it," he said. "They understand that it is bigger than rugby league. It's bigger than them and their families. It's about the state, and they carry them very well on their shoulders."

AAP

Four Nations 2014

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