Laurie Daley has softened his stance on a potential return as NSW State of Origin coach, after previously saying he had no interest in the top job. The NSW Rugby League board is on the hunt for a new coach after Brad Fittler stepped down last week despite being offered a one-year extension.
Daley, who coached the Blues to their drought-breaking Origin triumph in 2014, said last week that he wouldn't be open to returning as head coach - but would help out if required. But when asked this week if he had "unfinished business" in the Origin arena, Daley left the door widely ajar.
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“I’ve said all along I’m always happy to help where I can and I was prepared to help Freddy and it surprised me when Freddy withdrew because I would have loved to have been a part of him helping NSW,” Daley said on the Big Sports Breakfast. “I’ve said along if people thought I could help out I would help out in any role. Coach could be an option, being a mentor, being in a leadership role, whatever it may be. I’m always happy to help where I can.
“As I said, any time people think that I could be of some sort of assistance, no doubt I would continue to try and help. I would support anyone in the game and NSW is no different.”
NSWRL Chairman Paul Conlon later told the Sydney Morning Herald he's be "surprised" if Daley wanted the job. The Canberra legend was in charge of NSW from 2013 to 2017, but only won one series out of five.
"I'm always happy to help if asked, always happy to help," he said last week. "But (the head coach role) is for someone else."
Daley said it would be a "risk" if the board opted to employ a full-time NRL coach like Ricky Stuart or Craig Bellamy. "(A club coach) can do it, but you put yourself at risk," he said.
"If you go into an Origin series and your club team isn't travelling well, and for that period when you're away your team struggles, it can put a lot of pressure on the coach. Throw into the mix (that) you might lose State of Origin, and you know the impact it has on coaches - you could be copping from NSW and your club.
"It's a big risk. That would be the worry I have - paying a coach a $1 million a year and they will be spending a quarter of the season, six weeks, out of your system in State of Origin."
Paul Gallen rules himself out of NSW coaching hunt
Another big-name who has ruled himself out is Paul Gallen, who had been mentioned as a potential candidate. Gallen skippered NSW to their drought-breaking victory in 2014, but revealed on Saturday that he has no interest in taking the coaching job.
"I'd be happy to join them and help out, but being the head coach no," Gallen said on 2GB radio. "I'd be happy to be involved (as an assistant), whoever does get the job."
Gallen said he was "surprised" by Fittler's decision to quit. "He was going to bring some of the greats back but he's decided to quit, which is his call," Gallen said. "I can understand it, he's a guy who's done everything in the game. For what he's done and where he is in life, he probably doesn't need the pressure and all the scrutiny on top of him."
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