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In Touch: A salute to Mal Meninga

Leila McKinnon, Channel 9 NRL.com Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - 12:00 PM

Mal Meninga ... one of the greatest winners in Origin history. Copyright: NRL Photos

Thank you Mal Meninga. As a Maroons supporter I salute you, and as a news junkie I want to thank you with all my heart. There I was, cross-eyed and nearing a Carbon Tax-induced coma when I chanced upon your column, a dark and delicate confection of justifiable anger, unnecessary bitterness and paranoia.

Big Mal wrote of Queensland’s sixth straight series win: "It was a victory against the very rats and filth that tried to poison a monumental team with lies, personal attacks, arrogance and disrespect."

He continued: "And it came from the enemy within the game itself.

"They are the faceless men of influence who claim their agenda is to benefit the game. Really, their only agenda is to benefit themselves."

It paints a dramatic picture. Somewhere in a bunker buried beneath a Sydney skyscraper evil men are convening to plot the downfall of the Queensland team. There, Ricky Stuart swivels around in his chair, stroking a big white cat, only lamenting he is yet to find a Mini-me to call his own.
Mal's allegations were that the NRL judiciary, the New South Wales media, and Blues coaching staff were conspiring against the Maroons. And it was a theory that had legs in Queensland.

Dozens of Courier-Mail readers posted their support online.

Macca of winning state: "Let the blue filth have it Mal. Those dirty rats deserve a good spray."

FNQ Bull of LA: "Good on ya Mal, those whinning blues will never understand what it means to be a Qlder."

Laura of Sunshine Coast: "Mal is right and good on him for bringing it out into the open."

BB of Gatton: "Mal you are a gentleman, legend and a true QLDR and these guys just don't get it and are unrepentant, no wonder you did what you did."

The trouble with Mal's column is that its wildly passionate tone is easily dismissed as a rant, and its allegations of an orchestrated campaign against him smack of paranoia.

It's a shame because that detracts from some of the valid concerns at its core. I agree with many of Mal's allegations.

There is no way Johnathan Thurston should have been cited for making contact with a referee; that decision was ridiculous and laughable and even had legendary former Blues players shaking their heads. 

And Dave Taylor was extremely hard done by when he was sidelined for five games for his tackle on Brisbane's Scott Anderson, especially after Akuila Uate escaped a ban for his hit on the Tigers' Tim Simona.

The reasoning for that decision was far from convincing.

Where I have to disagree with Mal is that those poor calls were part of a malicious plan to undo the Maroons. I'd call them clumsy, heavy-handed, and poorly thought through. Queenslanders definitely have grounds for complaint.

As for the "smear campaign", it's true that Mal copped a pretty good spray.

A columnist with Sydney's Sunday Telegraph wrote that Meninga is more of a team figurehead than a coach, based on television footage and quotes from an anonymous source disparaging Mal's involvement with the team.

It did, as Mal claimed, attack his "reputation, integrity, credibility and abilities", and I don’t blame him for being angry. Stories built on anonymous sources often have a stench about them, if someone has something to say they should be prepared to stand by it. 

But this was no Blues conspiracy; on the other 51 Sundays of the year, that same column attacks the head cockroach himself, Phil Gould.

The media is an uncontrollable many-headed monster. Even an evil mastermind with a fluffy white kitty wouldn’t find it easy herding cats.

Mal's column has been described as "childish", "bizarre", "embarrassing", and "weird". It's a shame because Mal, the so-called "figurehead" of the Maroons, led them to glory over and over again. He has done the incredible and won six series in a row.

I love his passion, and some of his anger is righteous, but Mal's bitterness and paranoia make him sound like a loser, when he is anything but. His record speaks for itself: Mal Meninga is one of the greatest winners Origin has ever seen.