Newly appointed Australian coach Mal Meninga wants his team to regain their fearful hold over world rugby league, but he might need to go into bully mode to extract the ruthless streak from his squad.
Meninga has been entrusted with regaining the No.1 world ranking and winning next year’s World Cup after taking over last month as Kangaroos coach from Tim Sheens.
Three losses on the trot to arch rivals New Zealand have resulted in Australia slipping to No.2 in the world rankings – an unacceptable situation given the Kangaroos’ golden history.
Meninga feels the Kangaroos’ drop in form might be a reflection of a lack of ultimate fight and hunger in the Australian jumper rather than a shortfall of talent.
Players freely bleed for their State of Origin jumper – a situation Meninga has seen first hand while coaching Queensland to nine of the past 10 Origin titles.
Meninga wants that unrelenting passion to spread into the Australian jersey.
If he doesn’t sense it’s on display, then he’ll move on to a player who’s willing to put everything on the line for team glory.
“They’re all great players. It’s just a matter of making sure that when they put the jersey on, they want to be successful,” Meninga said.
“If you’re the best player in your position, you’ll get picked in the Australian side.
“And you can be a bit of a bully from that sense, because I’ll (only) pick you if you want to play to the best of your ability in this jersey.”
Next year’s World Cup will be hosted by Australia, NZ and Papua New Guinea.
Meninga wants to turn the wood on NZ by the time the tournament rolls around.
“Leading into the World Cup next year, we want to be in a position where we’re feared again,” Meninga said.
“(NZ have) got some great players playing in the NRL who are not scared anymore, not daunted by the fact they’re playing against the Australian Kangaroos.
“From a psyche point of view, they’re very confident going into a game. We’ve got to turn that around. That’s my job.”
Perth will get its first taste of rugby league Test action when Australia lock horns with NZ on October 15 at nib Stadium.
The city will also host two NRL games in 2016.
Meninga would love to see the league expand to a place like Perth when the time is right.
But he said it was imperative for the NRL to ensure all of the current teams were financially stable before going ahead with expansion.
The October 15 Test, announced on Wednesday, will give Meninga’s Australian team and counterpart Steve Kearney’s world No.1 Kiwis preparation for the Four Nations tournament in Britain.