Queensland Rugby League boss Ben Ikin has revealed negotiations to extend the contract of Billy Slater as Maroons coach are at the "pointy end", saying he's "more confident than not" that Slater will remain in the role. Slater, who is off contract, previously admitted he wasn't sure if he wanted to remain Queensland coach past this year, flagging a desire to spend more time with his family.
In August, the Maroons coach shot down claims from Ikin that he was on the verge of re-signing, saying he needed to weigh up what was best for himself and his young family. But on Tuesday, Ikin revealed the negotiations are progressing well and he believes Slater will re-sign.
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"I am more confident than I am not," Ikin said when asked about keeping Slater on board. "There are a whole lot of moving parts at the moment around both teams and both series (men's and women's).
"We are still trying to understand what the series schedule will look like next year and how long the camps will be. We are working through budgets. The pleasing thing for us is that (women's coach) Tahnee (Norris) and Billy have been really patient. We have been in constant communication with them."
A Melbourne Storm and Queensland champion, Slater has guided the Maroons to back-to-back series victories since taking over as coach in 2022. But in August he said: "I don’t think I’ve ever said that I wouldn’t like to help the Queensland rugby league team. I’ve just got to make sure that it works. Selfishly, I’d love to coach on, that’s the easy answer, but I’m a husband, I’m a father, I run a small stud farm, we do that ourselves as a family.
“I’ve got to make sure that everything works and I can commit that time to the Queensland rugby league team. My management has started discussions with the QRL and hopefully they progress further and then I’ll sit down with my family and work out how it all works. There’s a lot more to it than me selfishly wanting to be coach of the Queensland rugby league team.”
Ben Ikin doesn't want State of Origin format change
Meanwhile, Ikin has urged the NRL not to change the format of State of Origin, amid calls from clubs to reduce the series from its current six-week format to lessen the impact on the season. NRL clubs also want 10-day Origin camps reduced to seven days at a maximum.
But Ikin, who said the QRL was in constant dialogue with clubs about their concerns, warned against such a move. "We would like the Origin schedule to remain the way it is," he said.
"Across the history of Origin they have tried to skin this thing, pull it apart and put it back together a million different ways. This is the model that just seems to land well for everybody. The broadcasters need to agree to how it is going to be played and the way it is drawn out now allows a whole lot of storytelling between games. If you compress up over three weeks … it is here and it is gone.
"This is the toughest collision sport you can play on the planet. To jam three games back-to-back-to-back you run the risk of diminishing the quality of the product."
Ikin also said the QRL would support a push for the women's Origin series to move from two games to three going forward. There was mass uproar when the 2023 women's series finished 1-1, with Queensland winning the shield on for-and-against.
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