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New Qld State of Origin coach Billy Slater to lean on legends of the game

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Queensland rugby league champion Billy Slater has been confirmed as the Maroons’ new coach, replacing Paul Green on a two-year deal.

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The former fullback will lead his state in the next two State of Origin campaigns in what will be his first senior coaching role since retiring in 2018.

“This team means a lot to me. It always has,” Slater said.

“It has been a big part of my life for the majority of my life and now I get the opportunity to help other people, not only fulfil their dream, but inspire a whole state.”

Despite his inexperience, Slater was among the contenders before Green was named coach for the 2021 campaign.

After a 2-1 series loss including a 50-6 thrashing in the series-opener in Townsville, the NRL premiership-winning coach and the Queensland Rugby League parted ways in September with Green refusing to rule out a return to club coaching if a position became available.

Slater was one of the key players in Queensland’s dominant Origin team of the 2000s.

The ex-Melbourne Storm star played 31 times for his state and played a key part in the Mal Meninga-coached team which won nine series in 10 years.

Slater’s assistants are not confirmed at this stage but fellow Origin greats Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston have been mentioned along with veteran coach Wayne Bennett, who is leaving South Sydney at the end of the Rabbitohs’ 2021 NRL finals campaign.

“It would be irresponsible not to lean on some great people around the Queensland State of Origin team that have been there in the past, that have been successful,” Slater said.

“I thought it was important that I had to commit first, then we’ll put the pieces of the puzzle together.

“Over the next little period, we’ll build a support staff around the players that will best assist the players to play at their optimal.”

-AAP

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