No happy MCG return for Meninga

Looking at his impressive State of Origin resume, Queensland great Mal Meninga appears to have few regrets.

Yet one still haunts him – and returning to Melbourne for Wednesday night’s game two clash against NSW has reopened the old wounds.

The current Maroons mentor’s place in Origin history can’t be questioned.

His Origin point-scoring record (161) has only just been eclipsed by Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston (174).

His staggering 32 Origins as a player ranks him in the all-time top five in the series’ 35-year history.

And he is Origin’s most successful (18 wins) and longest serving coach (27 games from 2006).

However, Meninga admitted returning to Melbourne for the first time since his 1994 Origin swansong as a player only brought back shattering memories.

Meninga may have got a champion’s send-off when his club side Canberra won the 1994 title but there was no Origin fairytale.

In front of a then Origin record crowd of 87,161 at the MCG, Meninga could not stop the Maroons slumping to a 14-0 game two loss in the interstate series’ historic first game in Melbourne.

NSW then broke the heart of Queensland – and clearly Meninga – when they went on to seal a 27-12 series clinching Origin III victory.

Meninga could not avoid the painful reminder when he lined up against NSW coach Laurie Daley ahead of Wednesday night’s game two clash at the MCG.

They were captains of their respective sides at the MCG in 1994 – and it still burns Meninga up that he didn’t walk away a winner.

“My time here wasn’t fond memories,” he said.

“It was my last year in rugby league and it’s one of the few things that I regret, not coming here and playing well and being part of successful Queensland teams.

“I played here in ’94 with Laurie and the Queensland side were dominated hugely so I am looking forward to turning the tables in a couple of days’ time.”

Not that Meninga couldn’t appreciate returning to the MCG in maroon colours – albeit this time holding the coach’s clipboard.

“It’s iconic, world renowned. It’s fabulous we’re down here and playing a rugby league match (at the MCG),” he gushed.

“This current team that I’m in charge of have prepared really well and we’re looking forward to it.”

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