Maroons coach in damage control over potential rift
New Queensland coach Paul Green has addressed rumours a toxic rift with Origin stars Michael Morgan and Kalyn Ponga could derail the Maroons' campaign on his watch this season.
Green was officially unveiled as Wayne Bennett's successor on Thursday at Suncorp Stadium, the very scene of Queensland's epic 20-14 defeat of NSW in last year's decider which clinched one of the greatest series wins in Origin's 40-year history.
But within minutes of his outing in Maroon, Green was quizzed on his relationship with key Maroons duo Morgan and Ponga, whom he coached at the Cowboys during his seven-season stint at North Queensland.
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Green handed Ponga his NRL debut in 2016, but the teenage sensation sensationally quit the Cowboys within 12 months to join Newcastle amid speculation he fell out with the premiership-winning coach.
Meanwhile, Morgan and Green were embroiled in a pub argument in August 2019 in front of club sponsors after the Cowboys coach allegedly questioned the leadership of his Cowboys captain.
Ponga and Morgan missed last year's Origin series due to injury but the duo will almost certainly be a key part of Queensland's quest to retain the Origin shield this season in the post-Bennett era.
Super coach Bennett is famed for his close relationship with players but Green was forced to deny any feud with Morgan and Ponga could have repercussions for Queensland's Origin campaign this season.
"A lot of that stuff is general talk," Green replied when asked about a fall-out with Ponga.
"As far as I'm aware I don't have any problems with those guys (Ponga and Morgan).
"I don't see that as an issue at all."
Asked if he would like to see Morgan, a veteran of 12 Origin games, back in the Origin fold, Green urged the Cowboys skipper to fight back from two injury-plagued seasons.
"If 'Morgo' is part of the conversation around Origin time, it means he is playing well," Green said.
"I'm sure from his point of view it (playing for Queensland again) will be a good thing."
If anyone understands the Maroons culture cultivated by Bennett, it is Green. He played seven Origin matches for the Maroons and was a member of the Queensland team which defied the odds to upset the Blues in the 2001 series.
That group was dubbed 'Bennett's Babes' after the super coach blooded 10 debutants in Game One, then famously picked Allan Langer from England to spearhead a 40-14 victory in the Origin decider.
"It's an enormous privilege and honour," Green said.
"I was lucky enough to play in the 2001 series and last year had a lot of parallels to that series. I learnt a lot from Wayne but you have to be your own man as well.
"What stuck out in both those series is what being a Queenslander epitomises ... sticking up for your mates and never giving up and it was evident in last year's series.
"Wayne and Mal (Meninga, assistant) did a tremendous job last year and it's a wonderful thing to be coming into.
"Our young guys will get so much confidence from that win and I'm looking forward to working with them."
Originally published as Maroons coach in damage control over potential rift