Malcolm Norman Meninga is an Australian icon. A legendary goal-kicking centre that dominated all three tiers of professional rugby league; a hairy, muscle-bound warhorse of the pre-metrosexual era. But the Origin doyen’s stinging attack on the NSWRL, labelling the organisation hierarchy as “filth and rats”, was a verbal tirade unmatched in rugby league history. And what’s more, the allegations of judiciary bias are serious and could land the champion in court on a defamation charge.
However, recent evidence has come to light that that paints an entirely different picture behind what sparked the former policeman’s rant. It’s a story of pent-up rage that stretches back almost two decades to the glory days of the Canberra Raiders, Meninga’s alma mater.
Several of Meninga’s former Canberra teammates of the late 80s and early 90s have told ThePublicApology that the real origin of this dispute has nothing to do with allegations of judiciary bias, or claims that the Queensland coach is merely a figurehead. Instead, it lies in a Manuka Oval training ground dustup the Queenslander had with his NSW teammates in 1994.
ThePublicApology understands that during this period, the Canberra Raiders leadership group – a veritable cavalcade of NSW superstars, including Laurie Daley, Bradley Clyde and Ricky Stuart – called an urgent meeting to discuss the fading accuracy of Mal Meninga’s toe-pokes. The trio voted in favour of the young New South Welshman, David Furner, to take over the goal-kicking duties from the much-admired centre, Meninga. However, the proposal was blocked by the three Queenslanders in the leadership group, Mal, Steve Walters and Gary Belcher. With the vote deadlocked at three-all, the final vote fell to coach and fellow New South Welshman, Tim Sheens. Sheens, history will show, casted it in favour of the young second rower.
One source has claimed that Mal became enraged after the meeting, storming off Manuka Oval in disbelief. “He kept shouting ‘how the hell can a forward have the goal-kicking duties, we’re gonna be the laughing stock of the Winfield Cup?!’”, the source told ThePublicApology, on the condition of anonymity.
“‘This is a bloody gee up. My boot was good enough to win us two premierships, countless Ashes series and a shit-load of Origins. What’s changed since then’?” the source added, continuing to quote Meninga.
The source added that Meninga continued to tell Queensland teammates that Furner’s appointment as goal-kicker was “a New South Wales conspiracy,” done because “we won Origin last year – those rats are trying to destabilise me and blood that young Furner for the Blues.”
Throughout history, dictators have often compared their enemies to “filth and rats.” It is a fact that Hitler’s Mein Kampf – and assorted Nazi propaganda – make manifold references to the phrase. Several Canberra players who were coached by Mal in the post-Sheens era can attest to his autocratic methods; tellingly, it has been mooted that the reason Meninga abandoned his short lived political career – which lasted 27 seconds – was because of a well-held distaste for the consultative democratic processes of the Australian political system.
Now obviously no one has suggested that Meninga is anti-Semitic as there is no evidence of such; what’s more, ThePublicApology would likely be sued for doing so. What this does illustrate, however, is that underneath the friendly, but extremely thin, exterior of ‘Big Mal’, lays a tyrannical dictator who unleashes his vitriolic sprays on all who oppose and question his ability as a coach, a goal-kicker or player.
Meninga’s dictatorial tendencies as a coach are said to be the main reasons behind Ricky Stuart and Bradley Clyde’s defections to the Bulldogs in the late 90’s. Funnily enough, Meninga’s coaching tenure also coincided with the powerhouse club’s drastic dip in fortunes. It is also rumoured that Meninga and Laurie Daley clashed many times in the early 2000’s before the former’s mediocre club coaching career reached its eventual – and inevitable – demise shortly thereafter.
During the last decade, however, it seemed that all had been forgotten between these former Raiders greats. But the mind-games during this year’s State of Origin series is said to have reopened old wounds for Mal; in particular, the assertion from Ricky Stuart and the NSW coaching staff that Meninga wasn’t the real coach of Queensland, but merely a figurehead.
Laurie Daley is said to have added fuel to the fire in his address to the NSW team before Origin III in which he is believed to have said, verbatim, “Who gives a fuck about Darren Lockyer, we didn’t give a fuck about Mal in 1994, so why should you treat those ‘Canetoads’ with any respect?” Meninga, with his long memory, had not forgotten that Laurie Daley was captain of the victorious Blues in the 1994 series, whose win denied the legend a glorious Origin swansong. This, it appears, was enough to reawaken the sleeping giant’s tyrannical tendencies.
The tirade that followed Origin III has clearly shocked league supporters and officials alike; however, these new revelations suggest the outburst was to be expected. Mal, according to tens of ThePublicApology sources, is a control freak, one who cannot handle any criticism, dissent or questioning of his ability.
Meninga needs help. Perhaps it needs to come from rugby league’s very own Dr Phil: Phillip Ronald Gould. Gus is known to have success with the previously recalcitrant Raider-turned-coach, Ricky Stuart, may have just the remedy for Meninga’s thin skin. Failing this, the Queensland coach can at least take solace in the fact that he isn’t the most inept former Origin-great-turned-coach. That mantle undeniably belongs to Artie “I am Origin” Beetson.
Mal may have been a great player, but his ability as a coach, and his friendly reputation, must now come firmly into question in light of these shocking revelations. We only hope that Mal can put the past behind him, and move on.
By Mikhail Ushakoff