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Country connection Maroons' secret weapon

Queensland coach Mal Meninga says a visit to the drought-stricken country town of Longreach will be a secret weapon for his Maroons team ahead of this year's State of Origin series. Copyright: NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
They will prepare in the plush surroundings of the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort on the Gold Coast but Maroons coach Mal Meninga believes it will be roughing it in Longreach that will fuel the defence of their eight-year unbeaten Origin run.

Meninga lapped up the luxurious environment as the Queensland Rugby League unveiled their new base for 'Camp Maroon', a move away from the Palmer Coolum Resort that has been their gathering point for the past six years.

Prior to that the Maroons had come together at Sanctuary Cove but Meninga said that it will be the trip to the drought-stricken community of Longreach ahead on June 10 that will galvanise the squad for their tilt at nine consecutive Origin series wins.

In 2013 the multi-million dollars worth of Maroon rugby league royalty slept one night on foldout beds in a temporary tent on a visit to the flood-ravaged community of Bundaberg and Meninga insists this year's trip to outback Queensland will deliver similarly enriching memories.

"We're not pretentious, we love getting out in the country areas and enjoying it," Meninga said at Monday's announcement.

"The players really love going there and mixing with the country folk.

"They get a real sense of how important Origin is and it gives them the sense that they can't let the state down when we go to those sort of regions. It's an important part of our preparation.

"I know the communities get a lot out of it but the team gets 10-fold out of it by going there and realising how much support they do have.

"Longreach will be great. They've gone through enormous hardships, drought is fairly prevalent out there so will be good to get out there and put some smiles on people's faces and promote the game of rugby league.

"Rugby league has struggled in that region for a long time so we want to try and rekindle the fire for the game out there."

In announcing the shift to the Gold Coast in what QRL officials hope will be a multi-year deal, Meninga rejected the notion that he was courting disaster by messing with a formula that has proved so successful in recent years.

"We've been here and we've been undefeated as well. It's not as if the accommodation is the be all and end all," said Meninga, who will be an integral figure in celebrations marking Origin's 100th game on May 28 at Suncorp Stadium.

"We don't want to stand still. We're always trying to improve the program. We've had a fantastic time up at Coolum but we thought it was time for a change of scenery and we want to make sure that we keep on improving the program.

"We've been here before but it's a new and improved facility here at Sanctuary Cove. The field's great, the training facilities are great with the gym, the pool and recovery area is sensational as well so it's just a change of scenery and we're constantly making sure we're looking at different options."

Both Origin teams will prepare in new surroundings in 2014, with New South Wales coach Laurie Daley shifting the Blues' preparations for games one and three in Brisbane to the Novotel Pacific Bay Resort in Coffs Harbour.

While Meninga joked that he and his former Canberra teammate might meet up on the border while in camp, the Maroons mentor said it was another opportunity to spread the rugby league message using the game's greatest vehicle.

"It's nice to get back in this corridor and help promote rugby league," he said.

"We'll have our sessions out and about in the community and all our sessions are always open for the community to come and watch us as well.

"We're going to go to Burleigh Bears and have a session there, we're going to train against the Bears and Tweed so we're constantly trying to encourage and develop the game and what greater vehicle than Origin to promote rugby league in this region."

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