Former Queensland star Justin Hodges expects Wayne Bennett’s legacy to his Maroons successor to be less pressure for immediate State of Origin success.
Bennett stepped in late last year after Kevin Walters quit the role following his appointment as Brisbane’s NRL coach, guiding the Maroons to an unexpected 2-1 series win.
That victory prevented NSW claiming three series triumphs in a row for the first time since 2005 and Hodges feels that will play a factor in who replaces Bennett after the veteran coach announced he wouldn’t be continuing in the role.
“Winning last year’s series has made it a little bit easier, we’re not staring down the barrel of losing four or five straight Origins now,” Hodges told AAP after being named at centre in the Deadly Choices ‘Deadly Maroons’ 40-year Origin team on Friday.
Premiership-winning ex-North Queensland coach Paul Green is the frontrunner for the role but is understood to still be eager to coach in the NRL if a future opportunity arises.
A left-field, but potentially longer-term solution is to appoint former Maroons fullback Billy Slater, despite having never held a head coaching position.
Hodges said Slater’s lack of experience shouldn’t preclude him from the discussion.
“To be a good Origin coach, you have to play in the Origin arena as well and he’s done that tenfold and really shone at that level,” Hodges said.
“It’s tailor-made for him.
“Watching him work throughout the last couple of years of Origin there as well, doing some video stuff and coaching stuff, he’s got a good eye. He understands.
“It’s just a matter of time I think, he will probably coach eventually, it’s just up to him whether he wants to do it or not.”
Hodges, who made 24 Origin appearances for Queensland, said being named as one of the best Indigenous players to pull on a maroon jersey on Friday was a huge honour.
“When you think about the challenges that these older guys have faced to make the pathways for us a little bit easier, to be named even alongside the Pearl (Steve Renouf), a guy that I looked up to and to be in the centres with him is something special as well,” he said.
“Just goes to show all the hard work and the sacrifices that you’ve got to make pays off.”
DEADLY MAROONS 40-YEAR ORIGIN TEAM
1. Greg Inglis
2. Dane Gagai
3. Steve Renouf
4. Justin Hodges
5. Matt Sing
6. Johnathan Thurston
7. Scott Prince
8. Arthur Beetson
9. PJ Marsh
10. Sam Backo
11. Gorden Tallis
12. Carl Webb
13. Sam Thaiday
Interchange: 14. Matt Bowen, 15. Willie Tonga, 16. Wendell Sailor, 17. Dale Shearer.