State of Origin legacy builds for Billy Slater as Game 1 kick-off in Sydney nears

State of Origin legacy builds for Billy Slater as Game 1 kick-off in Sydney nears
  • PublishedJune 5, 2024

Billy Slater says complacency will not be an issue as he aims to emulate his former State of Origin mentor Mal Meninga and win his first three series as Queensland coach.

Meninga, who coached Slater, famously won his first eight series in charge from 2006-2013.

Only four coaches in Origin history have won three series in a row.

Remarkably, all did so at their first attempt at coaching in the Origin cauldron.

Arthur Beetson won the 1982-1984 series as Maroons coach after also being at the helm in 1981, in the one-off Origin win by Queensland. 

Phil Gould is the only NSW coach to achieve the feat, from 1992-1994, also in his first three series as Blues coach.

Slater will take control of a settled squad on Wednesday night at Stadium Australia with only one debutant — Parramatta lock J’maine Hopgood — in the 17.

He has been in charge of two 2-1 series wins but winning a third, and entering the Origin coaching stratosphere, is not weighing on the 40-year-old’s mind.

“I don’t think about that to be honest. I don’t think about what sort of coach I am, all of that stuff is an outside perception,” Slater said.

“I just try and do the best job I can for this footy team and I’m here to serve my state. My duty is to help these guys be at their best, individually and collectively as a team.

“That’s where my focus is. My progression, that doesn’t worry me. I am here for the right reasons and that’s all I care about.”

The successful Maroons teams that Slater played in through 31 Origin games were hungry to keep setting the bar higher. 

They were not satisfied with what they did yesterday. The Maroons coach, as he was as a player, is not resting on his laurels.

ABC Sport will have live blog coverage of the women’s and men’s State of Origin series.

“Once you start getting comfortable, complacency creeps in. I certainly don’t feel comfortable or complacent,” Slater said.

“I don’t feel that within the team. I don’t know why you would when playing for this Queensland team. 

“You only have to remember what this team means to the Queensland people and what it meant to us growing up.

“That keeps the complacency away for me. It hasn’t been spoken about and I haven’t seen any signs of it.”

Slater has tasted success at all levels for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia. 

The big stage is where he has brought out his best. That said, his stomach will still be churning as kick-off approaches.

“I’m excited and nervous like anyone else. It’s State of Origin,” Slater said.

“It’s a big game. Whenever I have done something I care about, nerves are natural, but what gives you confidence is your preparation. 

“Knowing you have the ability to play your best gives you confidence.”

History on Maguire’s side as he looks to break streak

Michael Maguire enters his first State of Origin clash as NSW coach with a point to prove, history on his side and Queensland in his sights.

Maguire will be aiming to wrestle back the Maroons’ two-year grip on the shield under Slater.

The Queensland coach has earned plaudits for his innovation and proactive approach, but in Maguire he may be about to meet his match.

Michael Maguire
Michael Maguire brings a new look to the Blues as they aim to break their losing streak.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Maguire’s reputation took a hit when he was sacked by the Wests Tigers but there is no doubting his dedication, attention to detail and thirst to win.

His demands are high, but so too are his results.

“He is a completely different kind of coach [now],” said Blues back-rower Angus Crichton, who made his NRL debut under Maguire at South Sydney in 2016.

“I think he’s a lot wiser and he’s learned from his time with the Tigers and with the Kiwis.

“[He is] a little bit more relaxed. It’s exciting.”

Barring a spell at the Tigers, Maguire’s teams have played tough and always tasted success.

After serving an apprenticeship under Craig Bellamy at the Melbourne Storm, the 50-year-old ventured to the Super League, winning three trophies in two seasons at Wigan and modernising the British game.

He returned to the NRL with South Sydney in 2012 and ended the club’s premiership drought in 2014 after turning the Bunnies into a sought-after destination for the game’s top talent.

And before taking the NSW job late last year, he was juggling assistant duties to Ricky Stuart at Canberra while coaching New Zealand. 

“I think he’s just really passionate and really detailed on his job,” Canberra second-rower Hudson Young said.

“You’ve obviously seen that at the clubs that he’s been at before. I’m excited to see what he can do here [with NSW].”

Maguire oversaw two Kiwis wins over Australia, clinched last year’s Pacific Championship and boasts the best win-rate of any New Zealand coach of the last 50 years.

As rumours swirl he will be a candidate for the vacant Parramatta job, the only real blemish on his CV is he was unable to revive the Tigers where a fly-on-the-wall documentary made him out to be a ranting and raving drill sergeant.

“I think he’d probably be the first to admit that [he was too intense],” Crichton said.

“I think it’s a credit to him as a coach and as a man for evolving with the times and learning from where he might have made some mistakes in the past.”

NSW players this last week lauded Maguire for handing them control of the sessions.

Now it is over to Maguire’s squad to ensure they halt Queensland’s pursuit of three-straight series.

“He’s tried really hard to make it a great camp for us and everyone’s taken a lot out of it,” Blues captain Jake Trbojevic said. “We’ve got to go repay it and play really well.”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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