Queensland Rugby League's refusal to rule out appointing an NRL club coach if Mal Meninga upgrades to the top job at the Kangaroos has opened the Origin door for North Queensland's Paul Green to go to the next level.
Meninga has been in negotiations with the ARL to take over as Australian coach from Tim Sheens next year, with the final details of his contract being thrashed out yesterday.
QRL chairman Peter Betros confirmed Meninga's contract as Queensland State of Origin coach expired at 5pm yesterday, leaving the champion Maroons team 'coachless' in 2016.
Meninga's Sydney-based management company notified the QRL last Friday it was not in a position to give an answer to whether he would continue his tenure for another three years.
Betros said if Meninga accepted the Australian coaching job, the QRL would appoint a quality replacement and would consider "every applicant" to ensure they found the best man for the job.
Green, a former Queensland Origin player, is known to have an eye on stepping into Meninga's shoes.
But he would first need to convince the North Queensland board he could adequately handle both jobs without it hampering the Cowboys' defence of its breakthrough premiership win. When the QRL appointed Meninga in 2005, it wanted a full-time coach with no club commitments.
"That would be up to the QRL board. There is no firm policy on that," Betros told APN when asked whether that condition still applied.
"We wouldn't rule anyone out. You always want the best available person to coach the Maroons and if the clubs would release them, I can't see a problem."
Betros said the board had a plan in place if Meninga was given the Australian job as expected.
"If Mal is going to take the Kangaroos job we will need to appoint a new Origin coach," he said. "Ideally we'd like to do that before we close the offices for holidays in two weeks.
"The board has a plan and once we know what Mal is doing we will go down that track."
Brisbane Broncos assistant Kevin Walters, Maroons assistant Michael Hagan and former Maroons great Darren Lockyer have been mentioned as possible replacements for Meninga, who has enjoyed an amazing 9-1 series record in the 10 years he has been at the helm. But if the QRL were to consider club coaches, it would also bring Wayne Bennett and Neil Henry into the picture.
"If Mal goes, then management will put its recommendation to the (QRL) board and they will ultimately decide on who the new coach will be," Betros said.