Mal Meninga isn’t laughing at the Dad’s Army gags.
Newly-resigned as Queensland coach, Meninga insists there is ample evidence that he is regenerating the Maroons, despite criticism that selectors have stuck with the same tried and true players a bit too long.
The Queensland squad have an average age of 29 compared to the Blues’ 26.
After Australia’s recent comprehensive Test loss to New Zealand there were fears the representative ranks have grown stale, and as the Maroons contributed nine players to that Kangaroos side, some pointed the finger at the undying loyalty of Queensland selectors.
Meninga won’t hear of it.
“We are regenerating. That’s the thing,” Meninga said.
“Half our team’s in their middle 20s. We’ve brought in Josh McGuire – his time is right now, he’s 25.
“Our senior players are in really good form at the moment and crucial to our success.
“I think we are regenerating really well.”
Bumping up Queensland’s average age is the all-conquering spine of halfback Cooper Cronk, five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, fullback Billy Slater and hooker Cameron Smith.
The quartet, who have an average age of 31, guided Queensland to a run of eight straight series wins before they were trumped by NSW last year.
McGuire is the only certain Queensland debutant for game one but if back-up utility Daly Cherry-Evans is ruled out due to injury, he could be joined by either Michael Morgan or Dylan Napa – depending on how Meninga decides to respond to NSW’s four-forward bench.
McGuire has been waiting years for his opportunity but knew it was only ever going to come on one man’s say so.
“My time was when Mal decided it was my time,” he said.
“I wanted to play last year but it is what it is.
“Good things come to those who wait.”
While Morgan’s red-hot Cowboys form suggests he is the most suitable replacement for Cherry-Evans, Meninga may opt for a like-for-like swap to combat the Blues’ contingent of big boppers.
That would open the door for Roosters firebrand Napa, who belies his 22 years of age with his imposing frame and unforgiving physicality.
“I like the way he plays,” Meninga said.
“See how big he is and how enthusiastic he is.
“He’ll come into calculations.”
Meninga has agreed to a three-year extension to his Maroons coaching contract and believes his biggest challenge is making sure the next generation of Queensland talent is ushered in correctly.
“It’s been recorded in recent times the percentage of Queenslanders playing in the NRL competition – we’re third, at the moment, the Pacific Islanders are something like 38 per cent and NSW have got quite a considerable amount of players,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of quality, not a lot of quantity.
“We want to make sure we do the right thing by that quality and get them coming through and playing Origin to their potential.”