Nine-time Queensland State of Origin winning coach Mal Meninga has praised former NSW rival Laurie Daley for having the courage to make a number of contentious changes to his side for this year’s series.
Meninga led the Maroons to victory in nine of the last 10 Origin series, but the new Australian Test coach was an interested onlooker at the Blues’ captain’s run at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday.
The former Queensland great diplomatically declined to say who he thought would win Origin I.
But Meninga lauded his former premiership-winning Canberra teammate for his controversial selection decisions in bringing rookies Matt Moylan, Josh Mansour, Dylan Walker and Adam Reynolds into his team for Wednesday’s series opener.
“Going forward with Laurie picking a really good NSW team it holds the Kangaroos in really good stead,” Meninga said.
“I’m expecting what everyone expects from Origin – a fantastic game. There’s no favourites and whoever turns up ready to play and willing to play will be in a great spot to win the footy game.”
“A draw? Can it be a draw? Maybe (I’m predicting) a draw then.”
Meninga said hadn’t needed to lend his experience to his successor Kevin Walters in his first outing as Maroons mentor.
“Kevin has been a part of the team for a number of years and we’ll leave it at that,” he said.
He said he was enjoying the Origin series build up from a different perspective.
“My new role as the Australian coach saw me with a number of these players just recently so I’m here supporting them and whatever comes from it,” he said.
“The thing about Origin from my perspective is that these games do matter when it comes to selecting the Australian side.
“Success begets success, and if the NSW team are successful this year then they deserve more spots in the Australian team.”