"It's his head in the noose so he needs to be his own man" ... Mal Meninga. Photo: Graham Tidy
MAL MENINGA bled too much alongside Laurie Daley during their time in the lime green jumper of Canberra during the 1980s and '90s to allow a triviality such as fanatical state pride to stop him from offering advice, as a mate, about the challenge Daley had accepted as coach of the NSW Origin team.
The one-time Maroons superstar, who has guided Queensland to seven straight Origin series wins since 2006, advised Daley to just be his own man.
''Laurie will be under a lot of scrutiny and, at the end of the day, it's his head in the noose so he needs to be his own man and have no regrets about what he does,'' Meninga said. ''He won't lack passion and he has a fantastic attitude. Laurie was highly successful as a player and captain of the NSW side that went through a golden era under his leadership.''
Unlike Daley, Meninga, who boasts a 71 per cent winning rate from the 21 games in which he has coached Queensland, had NRL coaching experience at the Raiders.
However, the 52-year-old said State of Origin was essentially about what a coach could extract from his players when a game had come down to a battle of wills and guts. ''It's a different type of job, [coaching] Origin isn't about club footy,'' he said. ''It's about making sure the preparation is good, getting their heads right, plus it is about emotional attachment to the jersey and state. It is about making sure the players are in the best possible shape when they play because attitude and skills take over. I'm pretty sure Laurie will have the skills to do [all] that.''
The former Australian skipper said his passion as coach of Queensland meant he never worried about being pitted against old teammates as he was when former Canberra players Craig Bellamy, then Ricky Stuart and now Daley were recruited to the Blues.
''It's about what I can control, how I can deliver the program we do in camp, making sure our preparation is spot-on, our attention to detail is important,'' he said.
''The players have to be in the best possible shape they can because we know by the end of 80 minutes they're going to be mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.
''NSW has a good footy team, we have a good footy team and at the end of the day it will come down to the players and their attitude. And I know Laurie will do a very good job.''