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Mal Meninga Article



A true collosus of his era.

Often overlooked by critics during his time as second to greats like Wally Lewis, then later Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga was without doubt a true leader amongst giants. Often dwarfing many forwards with his sheer size he also had the sublime passing skills needed for the tactical intricacies of centre play. He was a team player first and was unselfish in his distribution with the ball. Mal did not seek glory for himself but rather played as a man leading the players around him to play beyond their own potential.

Born in Bundaberg, Queensland July 8 1960, Mal was a south Seas Islander and became a spokesperson for this community.

Mal started his career as a league player with Brisbane Souths. However it was with Queensland that he made a name for himself in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980 where he kicked 7 feild goals to help Queensland to victory. This giant killer against the odds attitude became the signature of Mals leadership and helped spurn the early successes of Queensland's SOO.

He was a huge fan of fellow Queenslander Arthur Beetson but when he smashed him in a tackle the commentators noted that the old had done its day and the new beast had arrived.

In 1986 he joined the Canberra raiders under Tim Sheens and against the odds defeated the much fancied Balmain Tigers in the 1989 final, a game Paul Harrigan describes as the greatest game he had ever reffed. They defeated the Penrith Panthers the following year and were runners up in '91. The Raiders later honoured Mal by naming the main stand the "Mal Meninga Stand" for his achievements. Many people say that Mal turned the Raiders from an ordinary club into a Premiership winning one.

He gained the Australian captaincy from 1990-1994 and the Queensland captaincy from 1992-1994.

In his final year the Canberra Raiders made it to the grand final and thrashed an outclassed Bulldogs where Mal Meninga scored his NRL and the games final try. Later on that year on tour he would also in his last Kangaroo test score that games final try which was also his last ever as a player. Fittingly, wearing the Australian jersey for that last act seemed to reflect how his influence on the game had encapsulated all of Australia.

Mal Meninga though being a huge centre, invented the "balletic rolling slide" when scoring almost all of his tries. This is a diving try technique which too this day no other player in the world has managed to emulate. The technique involves diving over the try line and when horizontal and in mid air, place the ball on the ground with his right arm, balance himself with his left hand touching the ground, rotate the left shoulder and as the body gravitates towards the ground, roll the weight down that left arm, left shoulder, left side of back, middle part of back, and then do the reverse on the right side as the body rolls until eventually he would finish back on his feet. However the difference between Mal doing this and other players is that because of Mals sheer size he would do this roll in slow motion, which created the poetry in motion look. a look no other player has managed to recreate.

Fractures, multiple broken arms, and other injuries did not stop his relenting attitude for the game. He still wore a protective guard for his arm and continued his career when it had broken in the same place four times.

He won Centre of the Year (1991), Captain of the Year (1991), Adidas Golden Boot Award for the Best Player in the World (1990), and was the Sports Tourism Ambassador for the Year (1993). He was captain of Australia when they won the world cup in 1991.

He is the only player ever to have been on four Kangaroo tours. In the 1990 tour after already being one nil down in the series and in the final minute of the second test with Australia behind, he was the only Australian to race 75 metres after Ricky Stuart to receive the pass that would score the winning try. This try was the one which broke the hearts of Ellery Hanley's team and they never recovered for the final test with Australia seizing their opportunity. Mal's never say die attitude prompting the Australians to grow stronger and to maintain their heritage of dominance over the English.

The only thing Meninga never achieved was captaining his state QLD to a series win. Though desperately close to achieving this he was defeated by his clubmate and close freind Laurie Daley who overstepped him into being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Mal Meninga is a gentleman of league both on the feild and off it. If more players of today had his values then league would undoubtably be a sport of champions.