NEW Queensland coach Paul Green has vowed to uphold the Wayne Bennett legacy that propelled the Maroons to one of the greatest series wins in Origin history.
Green has been officially unveiled as Bennett’s successor for the 2021 State of Origin series – five years after he was appointed to replace Mal Meninga, before being denied because of his club commitments to the Cowboys.
This time, having severed ties with North Queensland in August, there was no NRL impediment to Green ascending to one of the most prestigious coaching posts in Australian sport.
Now the hard work begins.
To steal a cricketing term, Green is batting after Bradman, tasked with taking charge of a Queensland team basking in the heroics of Bennett’s magical 2020 series win which seemed like Mission Impossible as NSW chased a third consecutive crown.
If anyone understands the Maroons culture cultivated by Bennett, it is Green.
He played seven Origin matches for the Maroons and was a member of the Queensland team that defied the odds to upset the Blues in the 2001 series.
That group was dubbed ‘Bennett’s Babes’ after the super coach blooded 10 debutants in Game 1, then famously picked Allan Langer from England to spearhead a 40-14 victory in the Origin decider.
Green played hooker in Alfie’s fairytale return and, two decades later, those memories will drive him in the Queensland hotseat.
“It’s an enormous privilege and honour to have this job,” Green said.
“I was lucky enough to play in the 2001 series and last year had a lot of parallels to that series.
“I learnt a lot from Wayne, but you have to be your own man as well.
“What stuck out in both those series is what being a Queenslander epitomises – sticking up for your mates and never giving up, and it was evident in last year’s series.
“Wayne and Mal (Meninga, assistant coach) did a tremendous job last year, and it’s a wonderful thing to be coming into.
“Our young guys will get so much confidence from that win, and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
As a kid growing up in Wynnum, Green idolised bayside legends Gene Miles and Wally Lewis.
One of Green’s favourite memories was Game 2 of the 1989 series, when Lewis took charge amid an injury crisis which reduced Queensland to 12 men.
‘The King’ charged 40 metres to score a try that night to inspire a 16-12 win which clinched the Origin shield.
“I will always remember that Wally try, and also Mark Coyne’s winning try in 1994,” Green said.
“As a kid growing up in Queensland, wearing that Maroon jumper was a dream for me and when I got into coaching, then the Origin (coaching) job was yet another dream for me.
“I was lucky enough to play a few games for Queensland, so I have some understanding of the Origin culture, although the games today are so much faster and more intense.
“It’s a good time for me personally to take on this job. I don’t have any other commitments with regard to coaching, so I am totally committed and can’t wait to get my feet under the desk.”
Bennett blooded 14 rookies during the 2020 series win, including the likes of Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Harry Grant, AJ Brimson and Lindsay Collins, and Green is relishing the prospect of mentoring the young guns.
“The experience that group of players got out of last year’s series will give them plenty of confidence. I’m looking forward to working with guys like Tino,” Green said.
“I won’t be doing anything ground-breaking. At this level, you are working with the best, so they pick things up very quickly.
“My experiences in NRL coaching will only put me in good stead to win an Origin series for Queensland.”