Post by Greg Joos » Wed, 29 May 1996 04:00:00

   By Mark Lever of AAP

           CANBERRA, May 28 AAP - Mal Meninga today embarked on a new phase
of his distinguished rugby league career, determined to join the
ranks of the greats as a coach as well as a player.
           He said he had played under some of the best coaches in Wayne
Bennett at Brisbane Souths and Canberra, Tim Sheens at Canberra and
Bob Fulton for Australia.
           Now, he hopes to be ranked along side them one day.
           The Canberra Raiders last night gave Meninga a three year
contract from next year replacing Sheens who is moving to
Townsville and the North Queensland Cowboys. However, the club only
confirmed the decision today.
           "You've got to have ambitions," Meninga said.
           "My ambition at the moment is to consolidate the head coach role
and make sure I do the best job I can at that.
           "The thing I am looking forward to is that I can focus on that
single-mindedly and if I can do that then I can be a very good
           "If that happens over the next three years well, yes,
representative football is definitely on my mind."
           Meninga, whose playing achievements include the most caps and
points scored at both Origin and international level, retired 18
months ago after a record fourth Kangaroo tour.
           He became a key figure in the Super League organisation, acting
as a link between players and News Ltd, but missed closer
involvement with the playing side of the game.
           Now 35, he admitted that recent speculation of a comeback to
help Canberra through an injury crisis had some substance.
           "I was very serious," he said. "I chose not to because I didn't
want to embarrass myself on the playing field."
           Instead, he will concentrate on the steep learning curve ahead
before he takes over from Sheens at the end of the season.
           He will quit his News Ltd job to spend time in the background at
Canberra, talking to his former mentor and the players.
           "I am a novice in the coaching game so I need to do some
homework and get all my ideas constructed so that when I take on
the role at the end of the year I am doing all the right things,"
Meninga said.
           Before taking on the job, he had to resolve domestic concerns
about the impact on his wife Debbie and two children of such a
high-pressure, high profile position.
           "Debbie realises that I probably always wanted to be a coach.
She's right with what I'm doing now and it's been great."
           Canberra chief executive Kevin Neil said that while many big
names had been floated as possible replacements for Sheens, the
board had only considered the claims of four former Canberra
           After 15 seasons in the competition it was time for Canberra to
produce its own coach, Neil said.
           The others were Dean Lance, Craig Bellamy and Chris O'Sullivan.
           Meninga said he wanted Lance, the assistant first grade coach,
and Bellamy, who has charge of the under-21s, to continue to play
key support roles.
           Meninga expects to retain the current structure at Canberra but
will try some new ideas.
           It was also an opportunity to do something about his famous
complaint - that the game does
not do enough to help players move on when their playing days end.
           "I see my role as making sure that these guys not only play well
on the field but when they do retire they have the best
opportunities off the field as well," Meninga said.
           AAP mgl/nh/gd


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