As the State of Origin series opener heads to Townsville for the first time on tomorrow with its most successful coach reflecting on what it takes to create a champion team in Sport Australia’s latest podcast episode.
Australian Kangaroos head coach, Mal Meninga who guided the Maroons to an unprecedented eight-straight series wins said selecting players with a strong character, resilience and a sense of community is key in creating a successful team – all traits he acquired having grown up in rural Queensland.
“We want a player that has a strong character. He’s got a sense of resilience, a sense of community about him, loyalty, team – all those characteristics that you want in an individual that you know won’t let the team down,” he was quoted as saying in the episode.
“He mightn’t be the best player; he mightn’t even be the best player at the club. But we know what the jersey means to him. And we prefer to pick and have those players play than someone that’s going to be high maintenance and someone’s going to take a lot of work to get ready because when you come into a rep program you haven’t got long to prepare.”
The former Canberra Raiders, Origin and Test also shared how he grew up playing various school sports and club footy, and how his family helped establish a community rugby league competition, and the impact Wayne Bennett had on him to pursue a career as a professional footballer after meeting him while serving as police officers in the Queensland Police Service.
He also discusses the responsibility coaches have in helping players to achieve their goals in sport and become better people, and how the NRL’s Rise Development Program supports aspiring players and coaches to develop positive lifelong habits.
“We don’t talk about talent, we don’t talk about skill, we don’t talk about how good the player is, it’s about how good a person he is. We understand that they are skilful, and they can run fast, jump high and they can tackle well and all those skill sets you need but we need to know the person. And if you get the person right and you get the characteristics of that person right, well, then you’re going to get a very good rugby league player.”
Sport Australia’s Coaching and Officiating podcast includes conversations with some of Australia’s leading sport coaches, athletes and officials and is available across popular digital services including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, as well as on the Sport Australia website.
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