Former Queensland coach Wayne Bennett has issued a blunt warning to both the Queensland Rugby League and North Queensland Cowboys, saying the appointment of Paul Green as Mal Meninga's successor would come "at a huge cost".
Speaking at the launch of the All Stars game in Brisbane on Tuesday, Bennett was asked about the prospect of a club coach taking over the role from Meninga and was adamant that it would have a detrimental effect on the Cowboys' defence of their premiership.
Green is reportedly the No.1 target for the Maroons' top job with the North Queensland board yet to sign off on the appointment, leaving Broncos assistant coach and Maroons legend Kevin Walters out in the cold.
Such is Bennett's belief that it is too difficult to juggle both club and Origin responsibilities successfully he told Walters that if he was appointed as Queensland coach he would have to step down from his position at the Broncos and had a similar warning for Green.
"It can be done but it will be done at a huge cost," Bennett said.
"I coached seven series and with the exception of the first series I ever coached in 1986 I've been a club coach ever since so no one knows the demands of the job from a club point of view better than I do. It's doable but at a price.
"I don't think it would hurt Queensland's chances. There are so many wonderful players in that team and they've got a pretty good system going. The challenge is going to be going back to your club.
"We've got some of the greatest players of all time in the Queensland side so they don't need a lot of coaching but they do need a lot of support around them and making it a place where they want to be and they feel very comfortable when they are there. Mal did a great job with that."
Although it has been more than a decade since Bennett has coached at Origin level he remains indelibly linked with the Maroons, overseeing the Emerging Origin camps in January that have contributed so significantly to Queensland's success over the past 10 years.
He coached Walters for 13 seasons and has had him on the coaching staff at Newcastle and Brisbane in the past two years and said he was disappointed not to see him named the next coach of Queensland.
"Kevin has worked with me at the Knights in 2014, I worked with him at the Broncos in 2015 and those two years he was in Origin camps and on all occasions he was under the impression that he was being groomed to be the next coach," said Bennett, who won four of his seven series as Maroons coach.
"He hasn't done a lot wrong so obviously I would have liked to have seen Kevin get the job but that hasn't happened.
"I'd had the conversation with him that if he'd got the job that he wasn't going to be the assistant coach for next year. I didn't want him to jeopardise any part of that preparation but I would re-employ him the following year.
"I didn't want him to get that job and have it mean so much to him and then he's club coaching with us; he'd be distracted, there's no doubt about that. It just goes with the job unfortunately and I didn't want him to be distracted at all.
"I just told him what was going to go on because he didn't have the job but I wanted him to understand that if he took the job and the opportunity came what the acceptance would be, that he would have to stand down at the Broncos.
"He was being groomed for it – that's what he spent the last two years in the camps for, to be the next Origin coach."
Neither Maroons skipper Cameron Smith nor veteran forward Sam Thaiday would be drawn on the issue, Thaiday saying that he was feeling for his good friend who has seemingly dropped in the pecking order.
"I have a great mateship there with Kevvie," said the 25-match Origin veteran. "Kevvie was my first professional coach down here in Brisbane at the Toowoomba Clydesdales back in the day so I obviously feel a little bit for Kevvie."