CLOSE TIES: Former Maroons coach Mal Meninga watches Sam Thaiday in training for last year’s Origin series.
CLOSE TIES: Former Maroons coach Mal Meninga watches Sam Thaiday in training for last year’s Origin series.

Thaiday backing Meninga to unite Kangaroos

SAM Thaiday believes the esteem in which Mal Meninga is held by players from both sides of the border will prevent any rifts developing within his first Kangaroos squad to play New Zealand in Newcastle next month.

After an unrivalled decade of dominance as Queensland's coach, winning a record eight straight series, Meninga's challenge will be to bring players from the rival states together.

It's not always an easy task and coaches of past national teams have had to deal with splits in the ranks because of the fierce intensity of bringing together the "enemy".

"When Mal arrived as Queensland coach he came with a lot of respect from the players, who knew he'd played that hard brand of Origin football and was the face of Queensland," said Thaiday, who's a big chance of being in Meninga's squad.

"You look back at some of his highlights playing for Australia and they're just as outstanding.

"I'm sure players from both sides of the border are going to come into the Australian team with a lot of respect for Mal Meninga and be prepared to do anything and everything to keep their Australian jerseys and impress the coach."

Meninga takes over from Tim Sheens with the brief to return Australia to its long-held place as rugby league's No.1-ranked nation, a title it surrendered to current Four Nations champion New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Thaiday joined the chorus of players singing the praises of Roosters prop Dylan Napa, declaring the 22-year-old the player to take over the Queensland and Australian job when Matt Scott or Nate Myles call it quits.

"It was an amazing effort and fantastic to see Dylan step up and take on that responsibility," Thaiday said. "The challenge for Dylan now is to try and repeat that effort."



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