League: Relaxed rookie Daley has Meninga on edge

By Peter Badel

Mal Meninga. Photo / Getty Images
Mal Meninga. Photo / Getty Images

Mal Meninga isn't missing Ricky Stuart but thinks his New South Wales successor, Laurie Daley, can topple Queensland's dynasty with the most potent Blues side during the Maroons coach's seven-year reign.

Ahead of Origin I on Wednesday night, Meninga says the rookie NSW coach's unflappable style could sucker-punch the Maroons.

Meninga, Daley and Stuart were Canberra's key backline triumvirate during the Green Machine's premiership reign in 1989-90 and 1994. While Stuart did his best to ignite the Blues with ferocious intensity the past two seasons, Meninga is wary of Daley's composed, smiling-assassin strategy.

While Daley will make his Origin coaching debut on Wednesday, he has an intimate understanding of success in the code's toughest arena, winning six series in his 10-year reign as NSW's champion pivot. Meninga staved off Stuart's challenge but there is no hint of psychological warfare when he says Daley has the artillery to succeed where his predecessor failed.

"I don't miss Ricky Stuart, but I'll be honest ... I think it's a dangerous proposition coming up against Laurie," said Meninga. "The thing is, we don't know a lot about his coaching methods.

"I know how competitive he is. He has great communication skills, he is very composed, very measured in what he does, and that will rub off on the team."

When Meninga fell out with Stuart in 2011 during the then NSW's coach public baiting of the Maroons, it was Daley, as Blues assistant coach, who helped extinguish the hostility.

But, after a 20-year friendship, Meninga said it would be foolish to think the mild-mannered Daley is a soft touch. Like Stuart, Meninga says Daley understands the ethos required to win Origin matches and finally has the personnel to finish the job. The NSW attack, led by halves James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, hooker Robbie Farah and backline weapons Jarryd Hayne, Blake Ferguson and Michael Jennings, is the finest since he took over in 2006.

"They have picked guys in form, they all carry the ball extremely well, so they are a dangerous football side and we need to be at our best defensively to contain them."

"The No1 criteria for success is understanding Origin. There is an emotional attachment to it and you have to understand what it means and be able to pass it onto the players. Laurie has all that."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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