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'He'll do a great job': JT wants to help Slater coach Maroons

Johnathan Thurston has endorsed fellow Maroons great Billy Slater as the next Queensland coach and has put his hand up to be an assistant.

Slater has emerged as the favourite to replace Paul Green as the Maroons looks to adopt a similar coaching model to one Brad Fittler has successfully led for NSW.

On the lookout for their fourth coach in as many years after after Green told officials on Tuesday that he wanted to pursue an NRL job, the QRL plan to instil stability into the role by appointing someone able to make a long-term commitment.

Slater – who, like Fittler, works for Channel 9 – fits the bill and it is understood that he has expressed an interest in the job since Green's decision to step away.

Thurston, who was an assistant to Green in this year's 2-1 series loss, Storm coach Craig Bellamy and Cameron Smith backed Slater for the job, despite his lack of coaching experience.

I've got no doubt in my mind that he'll do a great job.

Johnathan Thurston

"Obviously, I've played a lot of football alongside Billy, and you can tell by the way he analyses the game through his commentary that he has an incredible football brain," Thurston told SEN on Thursday.

"He knows every position inside out, what's needed from that position, both attacking and defending.

"He's got an incredible football brain, and you know if they decide to go down that path I've got no doubt in my mind that he'll do a great job for Queensland taking them forward."

An announcement on the Maroons men's and women's coaching appointments is expected to be made within the next fortnight, and possibly as early as this week.

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While Thurston is not interested in stepping into the main role, it is believed QRL directors would be keen for him to remain involved, along with Neil Henry, who also assisted Green.

"I've already made that clear, with whoever the head coach is or whoever the QRL decide to go with," Thurston said.

"If they make that phone call then I'll definitely have that conversation with whoever the head coach is and go from there.

"I learned a lot in my first full-time role as an assistant, and I'm very grateful for that opportunity that Greenie gave me in that role.

"I felt like I grew each game and got more confident in that role, if that role does come up again, I would certainly consider it.

"You are working with the best players in that arena so you need to be able to bring the playing group together and put some structures into place as well, offensively and defensively.

"You need to make sure you get your preparation right during the week and that is where I felt as a team and as a person, myself, I grew in that area, helping the team."

Henry, who has coached the Raiders, Cowboys and Titans, understands the demands of Origin after being Mal Meninga's right-hand man for Queensland and he also worked alongside Wayne Bennett in 2020.

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It is felt that Henry could help mentor Slater and the next generation of Maroons coaches, including Thurston, Scott Prince and possibly Smith.

Bellamy was confident Slater could step into coaching the Maroons, despite having no NRL experience.

"Billy's got a remarkable sense of what the game's about, what works in the game of footy and what doesn't," Bellamy said.

"He's a wonderful communicator and the thing I think is his strongest trait is whatever he's doing, he's fully immersed. There's no dipping a toe in for Billy. He's either all in or he's all out.

"If he does get that job, the one thing you can be sure of is there'll be no shortcuts ... I don't think I've seen a more passionate person about the things that are important to him."

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Smith, who had endorsed Slater for the job this year along with Meninga, Bennett and Bellamy, has ruled out throwing his hat in the ring but he could still be involved in a set up similar to the Blues under Fittler.

Fittler is the NSW head coach, with fellow former Origin greats Danny Buderus, Craig Fitzgibbon and Andrew Johns as his assistants and Greg Alexander as the Blues coaching advisor.

Smith said Slater or Thurston would be worthy options and they would also be expected to have support from former Maroons teammate Cooper Cronk, who recently joined the QRL board as an independent director.

"I've spoken to [Slater] last year about his interest in coaching Queensland," Smith said. "If it came up he said he'd certainly consider it.

"He's very passionate about the Queensland side, he's a selector and is heavily involved already. I could certainly see him in there as head coach.

"People say Johnathan Thurston … he was already in there as an assistant coach this year. He could possibly transition into a head coach as well. Those two boys are probably the front-runners along with Mal or Wayne as a mentor."

Meninga, who guided Queensland to eight consecutive series wins from 2006 to 2013, has also been linked with a possible return but the Kangaroos coach would only consider taking on the role if he could continue in the Australian role too.

"My focus is firmly on the Kangaroos job," Meninga told on Tuesday. "I will always have an interest in the QRL and their State of Origin campaigns."

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Meninga worked with Wayne Bennett in 2020 after the pair answered an SOS from the QRL following the resignation of Kevin Walters on the eve of the Origin series to coach the Broncos.

Bennett is leaving South Sydney at the end of the season and intends to return to Brisbane, but he wants to continue NRL coaching and is keen to take charge of a second Brisbane team if the ARLC decides to expand the premiership in 2023 or 2024.

The QRL wanted to avoid a potential repeat of that situation if Green was offered an NRL job next year so are seeking a longer-term appointment to create stability after having to find a new coach for each of the last three series.

Tahnee Norris is expected to be offered the Maroons women's job after steering the team to victory this year but her re-appointment is likely to depend on whether she can commit to the job long term.

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