QUEENSLAND Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher has thrown his support behind coach Paul Green as the QRL prepares for a wide-ranging review of the Maroons’ failed 2021 Origin campaign.
After their heroics under Wayne Bennett last November, the Maroons surrendered the Origin shield this season in a 2-1 series loss that exposed Green to the pressures of coaching in the code’s toughest arena.
Appointed as Bennett’s successor, Green’s maiden campaign as Queensland coach was buffeted by controversy.
Aside from a record 50-6 loss in the series opener in Townsville, Green endured a spate of injuries and was rocked by an eligibility drama that saw New Zealand-born Ronaldo Mulitalo incredibly ruled out by NRL authorities on the day of Origin II.
Queensland’s preparations for Game 3 were then thrown into disarray when Jai Arrow committed a Covid breach, prompting a fine from the NRL and his scratching from the Maroons’ face-saving 20-18 win on the Gold Coast.
Green is technically off-contract, with the Maroons coach having a one-year option he can take up for 2022 in consultation with the QRL.
There are fears Green could quit the Maroons, having described the six-week Origin campaign as one of the toughest periods of his coaching career.
The QRL is set to undertake its annual review of their Origin program and while Hatcher was unhappy with the Arrow affair, he urged Green to return for Queensland’s revenge mission in 2022.
“If Paul Green puts his hand up wanting to go again, he would most certainly be a consideration for the position next year,” Hatcher said.
“My personal view is I’d like Paul to coach again. But I won’t make the decision, the QRL board will make the final decision.
“Paul Green is a young, incumbent coach, and the option is largely in his favour.
“People want to question the culture of the team under Paul, but look at the spirit the side showed in Game 3.
“I think a lot of the criticism of Paul was over the top. I really felt for him. He has my support, and I want him in charge next year if he is keen to continue in the role.”
Queensland’s injury sagas didn’t help Green’s cause.
Already hampered by the Maroons having a quarter of NSW’s depth, Green lost star fullback Kalyn Ponga for the first two Origin games, AJ Brimson carried a knee injury into the series opener and rookie Reece Walsh hurt his hamstring on the eve of his Game 2 debut.
But Ponga’s return for Game 3, denying NSW a clean sweep with a brilliant fullback display, underlined what Green can achieve with Queensland’s best players on deck.
“You can’t underestimate the value of good players,” Hatcher said.
“Look at the difference Ponga made returning to the team for the final game.
“When Paul was first appointed, we went into negotiations with our eyes wide open.
“Paul expressed from the word go that he would like to one day get back into the NRL as a head coach, but I certainly hope he is not just a one-year appointment.”
Green found an ally in former Maroons coach Kevin Walters, who believes the ex-Cowboys mentor, who delivered North Queensland”s first premiership in 2015, is up to the Origin job.
“I was particularly happy for ‘Greeny’ to get that win in Game 3,” Walters said.
“He was under a lot of pressure and I have been in that position myself, not so much as the blowtorch that Greeny had on him, but it was great to see him and the players get the win which takes the pressure off.
“I hope he stays on. Coaching is tough at Origin level, but Paul won Game 3 when he had some quality players back in the side.
“I wish Paul all the best. I think he did a great job.”
The QRL will look to provide Green with more resources if he returns next season.
Cowboys icon Johnathan Thurston was an assistant to Green this year and Hatcher believes Maroons champion Cameron Smith could be part of a Queensland coaching dream team.
“Having someone like Cameron Smith involved to help Paul is a genuine option,” Hatcher said.
“We want that cohort of world champions like Smith, Billy Slater and Thurston in our program.
“Cam is smart and a genuine guy, but he can be non-committal and he would only commit (to helping Queensland) when he’s ready.
“Cameron would be great for our Origin program. He has a magnificent football brain.
“That’s the type of structure we think would work … where Cam or Billy could come into camp for a year or two and learn the role of an Origin coach.”