Malcolm Norman Meninga AM
(born 8 July, 1960
) is an Australian rugby league
personality. As a player he was a legendary centre
, counted amongst the best players of the 20th century. As a coach he has held the mentor position with the Canberra Raiders
and is now the current coach of the Queensland State of Origin team
Meninga broke numerous rugby league records during his playing career. He has made the most appearances and scored the most points of any player in the green and gold jersey and is the top-point scorer for Queensland in State of Origin history. Meninga has since been honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia, has been inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame and has also been named in Australia's rugby league team of the century.
Born in Bundaberg
, Meninga is an Australian South Sea Islander
, a descendant of plantation workers recruited or blackbirded
to work in the Queensland sugar industry
in the late 19th century. He is an official spokesperson for the South Sea Islander community. Before becoming a full-time professional footballer, Meninga was a police cadet.
Meninga made his first grade debut in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership
at the age of 18 with Souths Magpies
. He first played for his state in 1979, and the following year helped Queensland
to a win in the first ever Rugby League State of Origin
match against New South Wales
, converting seven goals from seven attempts (Meninga was one of the last players to use the kicking style of punting the end of the football with the toe of the boot). Later in 1980 he played in the Magpies' BRL Premiership Grand Final
loss, scoring a try and kicking 3 goals. However, in 1981 Meninga again reached the Grand Final with Souths and won. The following year he was named man-of-the-match in Game 1 of the State of Origin
and later in the year toured Europe with the undefeated 1982 Invincibles
Mal Meninga became a Saint for the 1984/85 campaign. St Helens
had paid around £30,000 for his services to play in the Australian off-season. Meninga didn't manage to serve a second spell at Knowsley Road
, for a variety of reasons, not least a succession of injuries, that also punctuated his career for Canberra Raiders and Australia. Yet he remains a legendary figure in international rugby league, remembered for his formidable power, pace and handling ability.
, Meninga joined the Canberra Raiders
where he was to play all of his New South Wales Rugby League premiership
games, after many seasons and two (1981, 1985) premierships with Souths Magpies
in the Brisbane Premiership. He led Canberra to their first premiership in 1989
after overcoming the highly fancied Balmain Tigers
in the Grand Final
. The following year Meninga led the Raiders to another grand final victory against the Penrith Panthers
. He was also 1990's top try-scorer and top-point scorer, and was named as Rugby League Week's
player of the year. Also that year, Meninga was named Britain's BBC overseas sports personality of the year
Big Mal captained Australia for 23 Test matches between 1990 and 1994, and captained the Queensland State of Origin team for three years from 1992 to 1994. He remains the only player to captain a Kangaroo Tour on two occasions, in 1990 and 1994.
On Australia Day 1994 Meninga was made a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to rugby league football". Later that year he played his last game for the Canberra Raiders in the 1994 Grand Final where he led his team to victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs and to their third premiership in six years, scoring the last try of the match. On December 4, 1994 at Béziers, France, he captained Australia to a 74-0 victory over the French, scoring the final try of the game, and of his career.
Following his retirement Mal Meninga openly supported the Super League concept during the Super League war of the mid-1990s. His popularity and playing record as a domestic and international captain were valuable in raising the profile of the rebel competition. In 1995 Meninga's book Mal Meninga: My Life in Football was published.
Meninga was appointed coach
of the Raiders in 1997, succeeding three time winner Tim Sheens
, but achieved only moderate success. In 2000 Meninga was awarded the Australian Sports Medal
for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league. The following year he received the Centenary Medal
"for service as a role model and inspiration as a rugby league player of the highest standard". Matthew Elliott
replaced Meninga as the Raiders coach in 2002.
Meninga left Canberra and returned to Queensland in 2005 opening several successful business' including a fruit and vegetable wholesale business in the Brisbane Markets, and several Strathfield Car Sound outlets. In late 2005, he was announced as the new Queensland State of Origin coach, replacing Michael Hagan. He made a successful debut as the Maroons coach in the 2006 Rugby League State of Origin series, guiding Queensland to a 2-1 series victory, its first outright series victory since 2001.
Also in 2006, Meninga coached the Prime Minister's XIII side to victory over the Papua New Guinea Kumuls.
On October 13, 2006 he was reappointed as coach of the Maroons for the 2007 Rugby League State of Origin series and 2008 Rugby League State of Origin series.
Mal Meninga attended the 2007 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium as a guest of honour.
- Most Tests played for Australia (45)
- Only player to twice captain a Kangaroo Tour (1990 and 1994).
- Most points scored in Test matches for Australia (272 - 21 tries, 96 goals)
- Most goals kicked in Test matches for Australia (96)
The main grandstand at Canberra Stadium
is named the "Mal Meninga Stand" in his honour. The Canberra Raiders' player of the year receives the Mal Meninga Medal
in his honour and a statue of him is to built behind his grandstand next to the one of Laurie Daley
In 2003 he was admitted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame .
In February 2008, Meninga was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908-2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia. Meninga went on to be named as one of the centres, along with Reg Gasnier, in Australian rugby league's Team of the Century. Announced on 17 April, 2008, the team is the panels' majority choice for each of the thirteen starting positions and four interchange players.
Meninga gained some unwanted notoriety in 2001, when an attempted political career lasted a mere 28 seconds. Becoming fazed in his first radio interview, he resigned on-air shortly after the broadcast commenced . This incident led to the satirical Chaser
team instituting the 'Mal Award' for their The Election Chaser
& The Chaser Decides
television shows; presented to politicians "for the greatest act of political suicide during an election campaign". In the episode on November 28
, 2007, Mal satirized himself when brought in to present the award but "gave up" mid-speech.