Lack of coaching experience no barrier for Maroons coach Billy Slater

The Kid is now the coach, with Billy Slater confirmed as Queensland’s new State of Origin mentor. The champion fullback, a key member of the Maroons’ most successful Origin dynasty, was named coach on a two-year deal on Friday.

He replaces Paul Green after the NRL premiership-winning mentor’s exit earlier this month following just one series at the helm. The job is Slater’s first in coaching since his retirement as a player in 2018.

“I was drawn to the role because I care and because it’s important to me,” Slater said. “At the end of the day, I’m a Queenslander. This team means a lot to me. It always has. It has been a big part of my life for the majority of my life and now I get the opportunity to help other people not only fulfil their dream, but inspire a whole state.”

Slater made 31 appearances for the Maroons and was a vital part of Mal Meninga’s dominant team which won nine of 10 series between 2006 and 2015. The 38-year-old also made 39 Test appearances for Australia and was the Dally M player of the year in 2011, the Rugby League Golden Boot winner in 2008 and the Clive Churchill Medallist on two occasions (2009, 2017).

Despite his lack of coaching experience, incoming QRL chief executive Rohan Sawyer said Slater was the stand-out candidate to replace Green.

“The all-round education he can provide to our playing group is exciting, and his technical thinking offers another element as well,” Sawyer said.

Slater’s coaching staff is yet to be confirmed but ex-Melbourne and Queensland teammate Cameron Smith, as well as ex-Maroon Johnathan Thurston have been mentioned. Veteran coach Wayne Bennett has also been touted for a possible mentoring role alongside Slater.

“It would be irresponsible not to lean on some great people around the Queensland State of Origin team that have been there in the past, that have been successful,” Slater said. “I thought it was important that I had to commit first, then we’ll put the pieces of the puzzle together. Over the next little period, we’ll build a support staff around the players that will best assist the players to play at their optimal.”