Queensland’s new coach Paul Green has raised rumors that a toxic rift with Origin stars Michael Morgan and Kalyn Ponga could bring the Maroons’ campaign to a standstill on his watch this season.
Green was officially revealed as the replacement for Wayne Bennett on Thursday at Suncorp Stadium, the site of Queensland’s epic 20-14 loss to NSW last year. This was one of the biggest series wins in Origin’s 40-year history.
But minutes after his foray in Maroon, Green was questioned about his relationship with the important Maroons duo Morgan and Ponga, whom he trained with the Cowboys during his seven-year stint in North Queensland.
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Green made his NRL debut in Ponga in 2016, but the teenage sensation sensationally left the Cowboys to join Newcastle within 12 months. According to speculation, he fell out with the coach who won the Premier League.
Meanwhile, Morgan and Green became embroiled in a pub dispute in front of club sponsors in August 2019 after the Cowboys coach allegedly questioned his cowboys captain’s leadership.
Ponga and Morgan missed last year’s Origin series due to injury, but the duo will almost certainly be an important part of Queensland’s quest to maintain the Origin shield this season in the post-Bennett era.
Super coach Bennett is famous for his close relationship with the players, but Green has been forced to deny any feud with Morgan and Ponga could have an impact on Queensland’s Origin campaign this season.
« A lot of these things are general conversation, » Green replied when asked about an argument with Ponga.
« As far as I know, I have no problems with these guys (Ponga and Morgan).
When asked if he’d like to see Morgan, a veteran of 12 Origin games, back in the Origin group, Green urged the Cowboys skipper to fight back against two injury-ridden seasons.
« If ‘Morgo’ is part of the Origin conversation, it means he’s playing well, » said Green.
« I’m sure from his point of view (to play for Queensland again) it will be a good thing. »
If anyone understands the Maroons culture that Bennett cultivates, it’s green. He played seven Origin matches for the Maroons and was a member of the Queensland team that defied the odds of upsetting the Blues in the 2001 series.
This group was dubbed « Bennett’s Babes » after the supertrainer bled 10 debutants in the first game and then picked Allan Langer of England to lead a 40-14 win in the Origin playoff.
« I was fortunate enough to be on the 2001 show and had a lot of parallels with that show last year. I learned a lot from Wayne, but you also have to be your own man.
« What stood out on both shows is what it means to be a Queenslander … stand up for your friends and never give up, and that was evident in last year’s show.
« Wayne and Mal (Meninga, assistant) did a great job last year and it’s a wonderful thing to be here.
« Our young people will get so much confidence from this win and I look forward to working with them. »
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