01/07/2001. A smiling Maroons coach Wayne Bennett embraces Alf Langer. Queensland v NSW State of Origin at ANZ Stadium.
01/07/2001. A smiling Maroons coach Wayne Bennett embraces Alf Langer. Queensland v NSW State of Origin at ANZ Stadium.

Wayne ‘The Messiah’ must conjure Alf-like miracle

Wayne Bennett likes to think of himself as a messiah and Queensland will need him to produce a miracle in next month's State of Origin series.

The Maroons are in all sorts less than a month out from the series opener in Adelaide on November 4.

Kevin Walters' appointment as coach of the Brisbane Broncos has resulted in Queensland losing its chief in the lead-up to the unique end-of-year series.After losing the past two series, Walters has spent the entire NRL season canvassing potential Maroons players in a bid to snap NSW's winning streak.

 

Walters had a fair idea of who he wanted to wear a Queensland jersey in 2020 and had a 10-man train-on squad, made up of players not featuring in the NRL finals, ready to name last Tuesday so they could keep fit.

But on the same day, Walters' appointment at the Broncos was made official, prompting him to announce he would step down as Queensland coach in the coming weeks and be replaced by Bennett.

Wanting to put his own stamp on the team, Bennett hit pause on Walters' train-on squad and started preparing his own.

Has Wayne Bennett got a trick up his sleeve for Queensland? Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Has Wayne Bennett got a trick up his sleeve for Queensland? Picture: AAP/Dan Peled


The squad was supposed to be announced on Tuesday, but has once again been delayed as doubt hovers over the fitness of star fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Bennett is also considering some big changes like axing seasoned forward Josh McGuire to usher in a new era of talent.

Forget about Queensland no longer having the luxury of players like Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.

They are now hurting with the likes of Michael Morgan, Valentine Holmes, David Fifita, Moses Mbye and Ponga unavailable, who are far from Origin legends.

Meanwhile, the Blues are cruising along, slowly building a squad that will start red hot favourites to win a third straight series.

At 70, Bennett will step into the Queensland coaching hot-seat for the fourth time, having previously served in 1986-88, 1998 and 2001-03.

It was in Bennett's last stint that he produced an Origin miracle.

Wayne Bennett famously brought Allan Langer home from England for the 2001 Origin decider. Picture: Brett Faulkner
Wayne Bennett famously brought Allan Langer home from England for the 2001 Origin decider. Picture: Brett Faulkner

Queensland suffered a 40-point defeat in the last game of the 2000 series which resulted in NSW recording a clean sweep.

After a two-year sojourn, Bennett returned to the job and piloted Queensland to a 2-1 series win, famously bringing Allan Langer back from England for the decider.

It was a masterstroke as Langer starred in the 40-14 win and became one of Origin's most iconic stories.

It was something only Bennett could have orchestrated and he will have to reach deep into his bag of tricks to produce something similar this year.

Queensland is staring down the barrel of a third straight Origin series defeat and only the messiah can prevent that from happening.

Maybe Bennett has one more Origin miracle left in him in what will likely be his fourth and final crack at the job.

Originally published as Wayne 'The Messiah' must conjure Alf-like miracle



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