Billy Slater would command the respect of the current Queensland players and be able to get the best out of them if he takes on the State of Origin coaching job, according to fellow Maroons great Johnathan Thurston.
Slater has confirmed his interest in coaching Queensland next season and QRL officials hope to announce his appointment next week, with Thurston expected to continue as an assistant to his former Test and Origin team-mate after working under Paul Green during this year’s series.
The pair were key members of Queensland’s eight year Origin dynasty from 2006 to 2013 and while Slater has never coached at NRL level Thurston said he played a significant off-field role in Queensland’s success towards the end of his illustrious playing career, which finished in 2018.
“Everyone knows what Bill bought to the game as a player but it is only the inner sanctum that really know how high his rugby league IQ is,” Thurston told NRL.com
“At the back end of his career he was pretty much a coach. His attention to detail is second to none and he could get the best out of the players around him on the field as a player so no doubt he will get the best out of the playing group if he decides to take the coaching job on.
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“He is a statesman who has played over 30 Origins for Queensland. He played under some of the best coaches and played with the best as well, such as Cameron Smith and Darren Lockyer.”
Thurston, who also retired at the end of the 2018 season after premiership wins with Canterbury and North Queensland as well as playing 37 Origins and 38 Tests, said that there were no concerns about Slater coaching some of his former team-mates.
“Bill was well respected by his peers as a player and he will have that same respect from the playing group, whoever is chosen to play in that Maroons jersey,” Thurston said;
“Given what he has done in the game he has an aura about him. If Bill takes that role on the players should feel blessed and very lucky that they are getting coached by someone who, in my eyes, is the greatest fullback in the game and who knows every position in the game inside out.
“A lot of those players would have loved seeing Billy play as well and it would be huge for them to be coached by him. “
Cameron Munseter, Felise Kaufusi, Christian Welch, Dane Gagai, Valentine Holmes and Josh Papali’i have all played with Slater at representative or club level for the Storm.
Kaufusi told reporters during a Storm media session on Thursday that he was disappointed that Green would not continue but he was excited by Slater’s impending appointment.
“He’s been coaching me my whole career. The only thing that has been missing is that title next to his name,” Kaufusi said.
“The finer details that he picks up on that you don’t realise, he sees things that other players and coaches don’t see but it makes a big impact on the game.
“And he’s got a good grip on where the game is heading as well – I think he would be a good fit for the Origin arena.
"He has a passion for the game and for that Maroons jersey. Everyone stops and listens when he has something to say. He definitely has that aura about him.”
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