The National, Tuesday 4th June 2013
SYDNEY: Queensland coach Mal Meninga has blasted suggestions the “Dad’s Army” Maroons are too old to stave off a NSW uprising and clinch an eighth consecutive Origin series victory.
The Maroons side that runs onto ANZ Stadium in Sydney on tomorrow night will boast an average age of 29 making Queensland’s class of 2013 the oldest team in Origin’s 33-year history.
The Maroons’ 17-man squad contains five thirty-somethings in lock Ashley Harrison (32), centre Justin Hodges (31), winger Brent Tate (31), backrower Corey Parker (31) and five-eighth Johnathan Thurston (30).
A further three players, fullback Billy Slater (29), hooker and captain Cameron Smith (29) and prop David Shillington (29), will celebrate their 30th birthdays this month.
Former NSW winger Adam MacDougall believes the Maroons are running on old legs, but Meninga hit back sitting beside Blues counterpart Laurie Daley at today’s official coaches press conference.
“Dad’s Army … please,” Meninga fired when asked if he had a succession plan in place.
“We average (29) years of age, it’s a young’s man sport I suppose but it’s not that old surely.
“The elite guys today go through until 33 or 34.
“Petero Civoniceva (former Maroons prop) played until 36, Steve Price (Civoniceva’s front-row partner) was 34, there’s a few years left in these old legs just yet.
“But succession planning is very important and you have to have a focus on the future and that’s why we have brought in Matty Gillett, Ben Te’o, Chris McQueen.
“That’s why we have Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh Papalii and Justin O’Neill in our squad because you can’t stand still and you have to keep putting guys into the group so when there is the right time for transition that will occur.”
Meninga conceded the Maroons’ preparation has been less than ideal, but is confident injured winger Darius Boyd (ankle) and star pivot Johnathan Thurston (virus) will take the field in Origin I.
“It’s been a fairly disruptive week, but we’re still waiting on him (Boyd) and Johnathan as well,” Meninga said.
“We still have another session to go, they are important members of our team, so we’ll give them every opportunity to play.”
Asked how long Meninga would delay a decision on the duo, he said: “We’ll bed it down an hour-and-a-half before the game if that’s what it takes.
“They aren’t in enormous doubt. If I was a betting man, which I’m not, I would say they will play.”
Daley looked typically relaxed at today’s media gathering and says he can’t fault NSW’s build-up as they attempt to snap Queensland’s seven-year reign.
“Queensland are just confident, they have been there and done it, they know what works for them … we are still trying to find what works for us,” Daley said.
“I’m going down a different track and let’s see where it takes us.
“Our preparation has been great, I can’t fault the boys, they are excited, they are keen, as is the coach, it’s just a great time of the year.
“You certainly think and hope you are doing the right thing. Like a player, you have to stay calm and the calmer you are it reflects on the group.
“There are times when you become emotionally attached to everything you do but overall I feel good.
“Queensland have been a great side, no doubt about that.
“That’s the challenge we face, they have got five or six of the game’s greatest players but all we can do is be ready.
“Our preparation suggests we will be ready and then it will come down to 80 minutes and we will see what we’ve got.” – AAP