Mal Meninga

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Mal Meninga
Mal Meninga (10 July 2008, Canberra).jpg
Personal information
Full name Malcolm Norman Meninga
Nickname Big Mal
Born (1960-07-08) 8 July 1960 (age 53)
Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia
Playing information
Height 182 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Weight 107 kg (16 st 12 lb)
Position Prop, Centre, Second-row
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1978–85 Souths (Brisbane)
1984–85 St Helens 31 28 8 0 128
1986–94 Canberra Raiders 166 74 283 2 864
Total 197 102 291 2 992
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1979–94 Queensland 32 6 69 0 161
1982–94 Australia 46 21 96 0 272
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1997–01 Canberra Raiders 125 66 2 57 53
Years Team Gms W D L W%
2005– Prime Minister's XIII 8 7 1 0 88
2006– Queensland 21 17 0 6 81
Source: NRL Stats, SHS, RLP and Yesterday's Hero

Malcolm Norman "Mal" Meninga AM (born 8 July 1960) is an Australian professional rugby league football coach currently in charge of the Queensland State of Origin team. A former Australian Test captain, he was a legendary goal-kicking centre, counted amongst the finest footballers of the 20th century. He went on to coach for five seasons in the NRL with the Canberra Raiders and has been coach of Queensland's State of Origin team since 2006, having never lost a series.

Meninga broke numerous rugby league records during his playing career. He retired with the most appearances in the history of the Australian national team, and became the top-point scorer ever in State of Origin football. Meninga has since been honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia, has been inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame and has also been named at centre in both Queensland's and Australia's rugby league teams of the century.

Early life[edit]

Born in Bundaberg, Queensland, Meninga is of Solomon Islander and Vanuatuan descent, a descendant of plantation workers recruited or blackbirded to work in the Queensland sugar industry in the late 19th century. He is also of Scottish ancestry. He is an official spokesperson for the South Sea Islander community.[1] He graduated from Maroochydore State High School. Before becoming a full-time professional footballer, Meninga was a police officer at West End Police Station, along with fellow Souths Magpies players Gary Belcher and Peter Jackson.[citation needed]

Playing career[edit]

I'd watch in awe as Mal pulverised the opposing defensive line with his bone-crunching runs. From the safety of my spot six or seven metres away from the action, I felt grateful that I didn't have to tackle him because his giant thighs were lethal weapons.

Bill Harrigan[2]


Meninga made his first grade debut in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership at the age of 18 with Souths Magpies. He was selected to play for Brisbane in the 1979 Amco Cup, kicking a goal in the final which was lost to the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. Also, Meninga was first selected to play centre for Queensland in 1979,[3] and the following year helped his state to a win in rugby league's first ever State of Origin match against New South Wales, converting seven goals from seven attempts (Meninga was one of the last players to use the kicking style of punting the end of the football with the toe of the boot). Later that year he played in the Magpies' BRL Premiership grand final loss, scoring a try and kicking 3 goals as the Magpies went down to Norths 17-15. However, in 1981 Meninga again reached the grand final with Souths who defeated the Redcliffe Dolphins 13-9.

In 1982, he was named man-of-the-match in Game 1 of 1982 State of Origin series against New South Wales at Lang Park, and was later selected to make his test debut for Australia in a test against New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground, being the 540th player selected for Australia. Meninga had an unhappy game though, dislocating his elbow in the 28th minute after a crunching blindside tackle from Kiwi winger Dane O'Hara, while at the same time attempting to break a Gary Kemble tackle. He then played in the centres for Souths in their 17-3 loss to the Wynnum Manly Seagulls in the BRL Grand Final at Lang Park.

Post season he toured Europe with the undefeated 1982 "Invincibles" Kangaroo squad, playing in all six tests on tour against Papua New Guinea, Great Britain and France. Meninga was the Kangaroos top point scorer on tour, scoring 166 from 10 tries (worth 3 points) and 68 goals.[4]

In 1984 Meninga played a major role in an Oceania team's 54-4 win against an Anglo-French selection in an exhibition match Paris, returning to Brisbane after the match to continue playing for Souths.[5]

St Helens[edit]

Mal Meninga became a Saint for their 1984-85 season. St Helens had paid around £30,000 for his services to play in the Australian off-season[6] and he helped the club to victory in the Rugby League Premiership. He was bought by Ray French while he was in Australia. St. Helens rivals Wigan were also after him and had papers trying to sign him for Wigan. French had left the St. Helens contract in his accommodation so asked the Wigan chairman if he could borrow his; the Wigan chairman foolishly agreed and French crossed out Wigan and inputted St. Helens, so Meninga was signed for Saints, Meninga didn't manage to serve a second spell at Knowsley Road, for a variety of reasons, not least being a succession of injuries that also punctuated his career for Canberra Raiders and Australia. Yet he remains a legendary figure in international rugby league, remembered for his formidable power, pace and handling ability.[citation needed]


After many seasons and two (1981, 1985) premierships with the Magpies in the Brisbane League, in 1986, Meninga joined Souths teammate Gary Belcher at the Canberra Raiders, where they would play all of their New South Wales Rugby League premiership games. Souths coach Wayne Bennett joined them in 1987 and Meninga played in Canberra's loss to Manly in that year's Grand Final, kicking one goal.

On 20 July 1988 Meninga played for Australia in their record 62-point win over Papua New Guinea, scoring two tries.[7]

After being given the Raiders' captaincy, Meninga led Canberra to their first premiership in 1989 after overcoming the Balmain Tigers in the Grand Final. In the post season Meninga travelled with the Raiders to England and captained his club in their 1989 World Club Challenge loss against Widnes.[citation needed]

At the end of the 1990 NSWRL season Meninga led the Raiders to another grand final victory against the Penrith Panthers. He was also the year's top try-scorer (getting five in the Round 5 match against Easts) and top-point scorer, and was named as Rugby League Week's player of the year. At the end of the season, he went on the 1990 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France. Also that year, Meninga was named Britain's BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, the first rugby league player to win it.

Big Mal captained Australia for 23 Test matches between 1990 and 1994,[8] and captained the Queensland State of Origin team for three years from 1992 to 1994. He remains the only player to captain a Kangaroo Tour on two occasions, in 1990 and 1994.

On Australia Day 1994, Meninga was made a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to rugby league football". Later that year he played his last game for the Canberra Raiders in the 1994 Grand Final where he led his team to victory over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and to their third premiership in six years, scoring the last try of the match. At the end of the 1994 NSWRL season, he went on the 1994 Kangaroo tour. On 4 December 1994, at Béziers, France, he captained Australia to a 74–0 victory over the French, scoring the final try of the game, and of his career.


Following his retirement Mal Meninga openly supported the Super League concept during the Super League war of the mid-1990s.[9] His popularity and playing record as a domestic and international captain were valuable in raising the profile of the rebel competition. In 1995 Meninga's book Mal Meninga: My Life in Football was published. He was appointed head coach of his old club, the Canberra Raiders in Australia's Super League season in 1997.

Political career[edit]

Meninga briefly campaigned as an Independent for a seat in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly during the Territory's 2001 general election, informally aligned with the socially conservative, pro-life grouping of Paul Osborne, MLA for Brindabella.[10][11] On Monday, 24 September 2001, just after he declared his candidacy for the electorate of Molonglo,[12] he pulled out mid-sentence, stating, "And the thing about that is, I guess, I was a public figure and I was put on the podium where I was just a person out there ... I'm buggered, I'm sorry, I have to resign."[13]

Subsequently, this incident led to the satirical Chaser team instituting the 'Mal Award' for their election television shows, presented to politicians "for the greatest act of political suicide during an election campaign".[14] In an episode, which aired on 28 November 2007, Meninga satirized himself when he was brought in to present the award but "gave up" mid-speech.[citation needed]

Coaching career[edit]


Meninga was appointed coach of the Raiders in 1997, succeeding three time winner Tim Sheens, but achieved only moderate success. In 2000, Meninga was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league. The following year, he received the Centenary Medal "for service as a role model and inspiration as a rugby league player of the highest standard". After Canberra failed to make the finals of the 2001 NRL season, finishing fourth-last (11th out of 14 teams), Matthew Elliott replaced Meninga as the Raiders coach.

In late 2002, Meninga expressed interest in the Queensland State of Origin team coaching job.[15]

During the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup, Wales' assistant coach Scott Johnson got Meninga to assist with pre-match preparation by speaking to the players and presenting them with their jerseys.[16]

Meninga left Canberra and returned to Queensland in 2005, opening several successful businesses, including a fruit and vegetable wholesale business in the Brisbane Markets, and several Strathfield Car Sound outlets. In late 2005, he was announced as the new Queensland State of Origin coach, to replace Michael Hagan.


Meninga made a successful debut as the Maroons coach in the 2006 State of Origin series, guiding Queensland to a 2–1 series victory, its first outright series victory since 2001 (this despite the fact Queensland lost the first match). Also in 2006, he coached the Prime Minister's XIII side to victory over the Papua New Guinea national rugby league team. Meninga attended the 2007 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium as a guest of honour.[17] On 13 October 2006, Meninga was reappointed as coach of the Maroons for the 2007 State of Origin series and 2008 State of Origin series,[18] both of which Queensland won, taking his record with the Maroons to three wins from three series. When Meninga was given a new contract after the 2008 series, he was quoted as saying: "I want to win six [State of Origin series] in a row".[19] In the 2009 series, Queensland won the first two games giving them a record fourth consecutive series win with captain Darren Lockyer saying Meninga now stands among the legends in State of Origin.[20] In December 2009, Meninga was named coach of the year at the Queensland Sports Awards.[21]

In 2010, Meninga coached Queensland to a record 5th straight series win, and is now regarded as one of the greatest and most successful Origin coaches in history. He also coached them to their first "Clean Sweep" since 1995. As well as this, he is the only coach in Origin history to have never lost an Origin series. In 2011, Meninga achieved his 6th straight series as coach of Queensland honoring a promise he made in 2008.[19] The weekend after Queensland won its sixth straight series, Mal Meninga penned a column in Brisbane's The Sunday Mail attacking the NSW media and match review panel, and labelling them "rats and filth"[22] after he believed that they [the NSW media] had tried to sabotage his side's attempts at winning their sixth successive series by charging Johnathan Thurston and David Taylor with on-field incidents (only the latter was suspended) and also attacking NSW coach Ricky Stuart (the last man to win an Origin series for the Blues) over his decision not to reveal the Blues line-up up to one hour before kick-off (which is when the official team lists must be released prior to a match). He was set to face legal action from the NRL's match review panel over his now controversial column, but after negotiations with them on 1 August 2011, the matter was resolved. Meninga still maintains what he has written. For the 2013 State of Origin series New South Wales appointed Laurie Daley to coach against Meninga. This was the 3rd consecutive opponent of Meninga in State of Origin coaching to have been a teammate of the 1990 Winfield Cup Grand Final-winning Canberra side. In 2013, Meninga achieved his eighth consecutive series win with the Queensland State of Origin team.


  • Only player to make four Kangaroo Tours as a player (1982, 1986, 1990 and 1994)
  • Only player to twice captain a Kangaroo Tour (1990 and 1994).
  • Most points scored in Test matches for Australia (272 – 21 tries, 96 goals)
  • Most goals kicked in Test matches for Australia (96)
  • Most goals kicked in a State of Origin match for Queensland (7 in Game 1 1980), shared with Johnathan Thurston
  • Most State of Origins won as coach in a row. 2006–present
  • Shortest political career in Australian history.


The main grandstand at Canberra Stadium is named the "Mal Meninga Stand" in his honour. The Canberra Raiders' player of the year receives the Mal Meninga Medal in his honour since 2008 and a statue of him has been placed behind the Mal Meninga grandstand next to the one of Laurie Daley.[23]

He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2003.[24][25]

In February 2008, Meninga was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[26][27] Meninga went on to be named as one of the centres, along with Reg Gasnier, in Australian rugby league's Team of the Century. Announced on 17 April 2008, the team is the panels' majority choice for each of the thirteen starting positions and four interchange players.[28][29]

In June 2008, he was chosen in the Queensland Rugby League's Team of the Century at centre.[30]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Islanders' sporting prowess". Archived from the original on 1 September 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2007. 
  2. ^ Bill Harrigan with Daniel Lane (2003). Harrigan: the referee in a league of his own. Australia: Hachette. 
  3. ^ Toby Creswell and Samantha Trenoweth (2006). 1001 Australians You Should Know. Australia: Pluto Press. p. 690. ISBN 1-86403-361-4, 9781864033618 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  4. ^ "Kangaroos players register". Australian Rugby League. Retrieved 16 October 2011. 
  5. ^ "Sport digest". The Sydney Morning Herald. 19 April 1984. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "Meninga Saints Heritage Society". Retrieved 13 June 2007. 
  7. ^ "O'Connor helps set Test records". The Age. 21 July 1988. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 
  8. ^ Hagan, Stephen (2006). Australia's Blackest Sporting Moments: The Top 100. Ngalga Warralu Publishing Pty Ltd. p. 288. ISBN 1-921212-00-4, 9781921212000 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  9. ^ Headon, David (October 1999). "Up From the Ashes: The Phoenix of a Rugby League Literature" (pdf). Football Studies Volume 2, Issue 2. Football Studies Group. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  10. ^ "December 2001, QN2001D". Quota Notes, Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia. Proportional Representation Society of Australia. 2001. Retrieved 2012-06-13. 
  11. ^ Crispin Hull (2001-09-09). "December 2001, QN2001D". Quota Notes, Newsletter of the Proportional Representation Society of Australia. Retrieved 2012-06-13. 
  12. ^ "Mal Meninga expected to run as Molonglo Independent". ABC News online (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 24 September 2001. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  13. ^ "Meninga sidesteps politics". The World Today (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 24 September 2001. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  14. ^ "The Mal Award". The Chaser Decides (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 2001. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  15. ^ AAP Sports News (17 October 2002). "Meninga keen for Australian or Queensland coaching job". Australia. Retrieved 27 December 2009. 
  16. ^ McBryde, Robin (2007). Staying Strong. Wales: Y Lolfa. p. 154. 
  17. ^ "Big Mal welcomes the squad". Saints. 23 August 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2007. 
  18. ^ "Meninga stays with the Maroons". Retrieved 13 October 2006. [dead link]
  19. ^ a b NSW need look no further than Queensland plan - Brisbane Times
  20. ^ "Meninga's Origin culture created history: Lockyer". Retrieved 25 June 2009. 
  21. ^ deKroo, Karl (4 December 2009). "Wally Lewis says Maroons okay without Darren Lockyer". The Courier Mail (Australia: Queensland Newspapers). Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  22. ^ Meninga's fury at NSW 'rats and filth' - Sports News First
  23. ^ Peter Fitzgerald (11 September 2008). "Mighty Mal makes monumental mark". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 11 September 2008. 
  24. ^ "Malcolm 'Mal' Meninga AM". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame
  26. ^ Peter Cassidy (23 February 2008). "Controversy reigns as NRL releases top 100 players". Macquarie National News. Retrieved 23 February 2008. 
  27. ^ "Centenary of Rugby League – The Players". NRL & ARL. 23 February 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2008. 
  28. ^ Todd Balym (17 April 2008). "Johns, Meninga among Immortals". Fox Sports Australia. Retrieved 17 April 2008. 
  29. ^ "Team of the Century Announced". NRL & ARL. 17 April 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2008. 
  30. ^ Ricketts, Steve (10 June 2008). "Locky named No.1 but Wal's still King". The Courier-Mail. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Dean Lance
Canberra Raiders captain
Succeeded by
Ricky Stuart
Preceded by
Tim Sheens
Canberra Raiders

Succeeded by
Matthew Elliott
Preceded by
Michael Hagan

Succeeded by