Queensland coach Mal Meninga says he is driven to take up the vacant Kangaroos coaching position because he wants to see international football restored as the pinnacle of the game.

Meninga is a leading contender to replace former Australian coach Tim Sheens, but admits to having sleepless nights as he wrestles with the idea of standing down from the State of Origin coaching role with his beloved Maroons.

However, Meninga is excited by the prospect after an Australian Rugby League Commission review resulted in a commitment to improve the Kangaroos' development pathways and help strengthen the international game overall.

"I'm keen under the new review and what they've decided around making the international program more relevant," Meninga said.


"More events, more emerging programs, maybe have an international nines, spending money on more test matches and make the Kangaroos and international league at the top of the ladder.

"I'm very keen to be involved in that type of process, but then I'm torn because of my baby Maroons. To go away from that would be a difficult decision so I'm having sleepless nights at the moment."

Meninga has been in talks with Australian officials and hopes a decision on the Kangaroos coaching role is made by the end of the month.

The 55-year-old has coached Queensland to nine series wins over the past 10 years, but is uncomfortable with the fact that many Australian players rate playing for their state as a greater honour than representing their country.

The former state and national captain was the only player to make four Kangaroo tours (1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994) and longs to see international football reclaim top status.

"Playing for your country is the ultimate and that's what every kid should be aspiring to," he said. "It has lost its gloss, the Australian position, and that's why they want to put it back on a pedestal and add some resources.

"We're lucky that we've got a small international program that can be developed so let's put it at the top of the tree."

Improving the Kangaroos standing after three consecutive defeats to New Zealand is the obvious goal, but Meninga says Australian players need to be prepared to give their all to the cause.


The length of the NRL season and representative demands mean it is difficult for players to always be at their best and he believes the Kiwis suffered from that in their recent series loss to England.

"It comes from the heart. That's important, you've got to want to put that jersey on and the domestic season is such a tough schedule and it's tough to get yourself back up emotionally, physically and mentally at the back end of the year.

"I don't want to take anything away from the Kiwis. What Stephen Kearney's done as far as transitioning players, quality players, younger players into their systems is really good.

"They've got a quality side and haven't had a lot of rest in a lot of years and they're expected to perform at their best and they looked tired in the third test against England.

"They need a spell, but they had Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran, Simon Mannering and Manu Vatuvei missing, and Jason Taumalolo as well. That's five quality players who would probably have played in the Kiwis so I wouldn't be holding my breath. They're still favourites in my opinion."