IMMORTAL Mal Meninga admits it will be a strange sensation cheering against his beloved Canberra Raiders in March next year as the former Queensland coach takes up his new role with the Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans sent a shockwave through rugby league earlier this month with their massive recruitment coup – luring Kangaroos coach Meninga to the club as Gold Coast’s new Head of Performance and Culture.
The Titans brought in the record-breaking former Maroons coach to bring a winning environment to the struggling club – a feat he achieved with incredible success with Queensland and Australia.
But the man whose name is as synonymous with the lime green of Canberra as it is with the maroon of Queensland admits it will be an odd feeling in Round 1 next season, when the Titans host the Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium.
“I definitely still have the lime green of the Raiders in my veins, but I am very excited about working with the Titans and seeing them become a force in the NRL,” Mal told fogs.com.au.
“I love rugby league, and I firmly believe that the game needs to be strong on the Gold Coast – not just at NRL level with the Titans, but across all levels of the game in the region.
“I hope that what I have learned through my career as a player and a coach – with Brisbane Souths, Canberra, Queensland and Australia – will benefit the Titans in this next crucial stage of the club’s development.”
Importantly, it means “The Big Fella” will be moving back to Queensland after a couple of years away living in Canberra.
Meninga’s new role has been given the approval of NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg, who has given Meninga the green light to continue coaching the Kangaroos, with Test football now moving to post-season in the NRL.
“Coaching Australia is a great source of pride for me, and it will continue to be my priority,” Mal said. “The Titans are happy for me to continue in that role and I have no doubt I can combine the two roles successfully.”
The Meninga coup has been lauded around the game as a terrific step forward for the Titans, who have long struggled in the shadow of big brother Brisbane up the road.
Titans Executive Director Dennis Watt said Meninga’s ability to act as a lightning rod across all aspects of the club that made him a priority signing for the Gold Coast.
“To have someone like Mal Meninga, with everything that he has achieved in the game, be so excited about joining the Titans is a terrific show of faith and belief in the strength, leadership and potential of the Gold Coast,” Watt said.
“Mal was an outstanding player over his career with Brisbane Souths, Canberra, St Helens, Queensland and Australia.
“But what he has been able to achieve, and continues to achieve, in his coaching career with Queensland and Australia, shows that he is a master at creating winning cultures. He unifies and ensures a total buy-in from the people around him.”