An awkward conversation with Kevin Walters looms for the Queensland Rugby League after Cowboys coach Paul Green turned down the vacant State of Origin coaching position.
Walters is now the raging hot favourite to become the new Maroons coach, but will need to swallow his pride as the QRL’s second preference when they inevitably call with the offer, having been left “shattered” when first overlooked.
Green will now concentrate solely on North Queensland’s NRL premiership defence after heeding the advice of the outgoing Mal Meninga and coaching great Wayne Bennett, who both warned against trying to juggle club and representative commitments.
Having wrestled with the decision for two weeks, Green said the timing just wasn’t quite right.
“I am extremely flattered by the QRL’s interest in me coaching the Maroons. I’m humbled by the overtures and coaching the Maroons is something I am hugely passionate about,” said Green.
“I’ve decided to concentrate on coaching the Cowboys in season 2016, putting all my energies into having another successful season.
“From a personal point of view, the decision that I’ve made will be the best thing for all parties next year.
“As a past State of Origin player, I remain as passionate as ever about the Maroons and remain hopeful of again getting such a treasured opportunity.”
It leaves Walters, a 242-game veteran with the Broncos and a 20-time Queensland representative, as the only legitimate candidate left to succeed Meninga.
Indeed, most rugby league identities were shocked when Walters, who was being groomed for the job for the past two years, wasn’t asked first.
It would also leave Brisbane head coach Wayne Bennett needing a new assistant.
Bennett told an audience at the NRL All Stars launch on Wednesday he had already informed Walters that, if the Maroons came knocking, he would have to stand down from Broncos duties for a season so he wouldn’t be “distracted”.
Bennett is nothing if not true to his word, so it’s likely the search has already begun.
But there will be no such haste from the QRL – managing director Robert Moore says despite “enormous public interest” in the appointment of the new coach, an answer is unlikely until January.
“We respect and support Paul’s decision to concentrate on the Cowboys as the club prepares for its premiership defence,” Moore said.