Mackenroth's abiding legacy to the Maroons

Mackenroth's abiding legacy to the Maroons

Terry Mackenroth bled maroon and without him Queensland's unprecedented recent success may never have taken the State of Origin arena by storm.

Mackenroth played a significant role in a turning point in Queensland's rugby league history, one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Queensland Academy of Sport's emerging Origin program.

A program which has produced more than 50 graduates who have represented Queensland, including all-time greats Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis and the bulk of the Maroons who have won 11 of the past 12 Origin series.

Queensland had just lost the 2000 series 3-0 with the 56-16 loss in Origin III was universally regarded as the blackest day in the state's rugby league history.

Mackenroth was Minister of Sport in the Peter Beattie government when his phone rang.

"I was at the Gabba about to watch an Olympic soccer game in 2000 when Wayne Bennett phoned me," Mackenroth recalled to Rugby League Week last year.

"He said, 'Ross Livermore has asked me to coach the Origin team next year but I've only agreed to do it if they commit to an emerging Origin squad through the Queensland Academy of Sport. Would you support it?' He did put a bit on my shoulders."

Mackenroth cut through red tape and went quickly to work. Bennett soon had the green light to go to work on the program as director of coaching and create the emerging Origin program that we see today.

"I went to Parliament House and Terry looked at the chairman and chief executive of the Queensland Academy of Sport and said 'make this happen'," Bennett reflected.

"The thinking was that we had to have a pipeline and we couldn't hope players would come through without us identifying the talent and working with the talent."

Bennett had successfully returned to coach the Maroons post-Super League in 1998 after a decade's absence from Origin coaching.

He thought that memorable year was to be his last, but duty called after the 2000 debacle.

 Maroons team manager Chris Close had called QRL boss Ross Livermore and Bennett pleading for a change in direction.

"The first thing I said was 'Ross, if you want me to come back I have to come back on my terms and do things that we've never done before. If you don't want to do that, I ain't coming back' – otherwise I knew it would just be another band-aid on the sore," Bennett recalled.

"The Queensland Academy of Sport was a vehicle that was run by the government agency and it was doing a great job in Queensland for other sports and codes, but we couldn't get into it.

"Every time I asked the QRL they said we couldn't get into it. So I thought 'stuff it, I'm going to the top man'."

The top man was Mackenroth.

"The QAS emerging Origin program was all about revitalising that culture at a time when State of Origin football in Queensland was at the crossroads. Wayne was well aware that something significant had to be done," Mackenroth recalled.

Queensland celebrate their 2017 Origin win.
Queensland celebrate their 2017 Origin win. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Bennett oversaw a 2-1 series win in 2001 but it was the "pipeline to success", the QAS emerging Origin program, that was to be his greatest legacy from that period in Maroons history

The coach believes the program wasn't the only factor in making the Maroons great again.

Bennett said to the credit of subsequent coaches Michael Hagan, Mal Meninga and Kevin Walters, they had ensured players have to come through the emerging Origin program before they pick them.

NRL.com called Bennett on Tuesday for the final word on Mackenroth and he reminisced about how he epitomised the words of wisdom from Broncos co-founder Paul Morgan about people who get things done.

"Paul Morgan said to me one time 'don't waste your time with the lightweights. Go to the heavyweights'," Bennett told NRL.com.

"It was great advice. The QAS was government-funded and Terry Mackenroth was the heavyweight, as the Minister for Sport.

"I knew he had a love for rugby league and I'd met him a few times so I made the phone call. I'm forever grateful to him for what he did for us.

"We got into the QAS and it is something that has made a difference."

Bennett could recall his key meeting with Mackenroth and QAS head honchos like it was yesterday.

"Terry brought the chairman and the chief executive in and they sat at the table," he said.

"Terry didn't say a lot at that meeting. He said 'make sure the QRL is part of the Queensland Academy of Sport' and it happened. It was as simple as that, a 10-minute meeting. The best people I know are the ones that get things done.

"They are the game changers of a whole lot of things in society, and Terry was one of them."