Mal Meninga set for contract extension amid backlash over Kangaroos loss

Some have called for a new coach after Australia suffered their heaviest Test loss ever.

Mal Meninga, pictured here with Kangaroos players.
Some have called for Mal Meninga to be replaced as Kangaroos coach. Image: Getty

Mal Meninga is set to be retained as Kangaroos coach despite some calls for change at the top. Meninga's side suffered the heaviest loss for a Kangaroos team at Test level in a shock 30-0 thrashing at the hands of New Zealand in the Pacific Championship final.

The staggering loss is certain to usher some changes for the national side, with veteran players like James Tedesco, Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt likely to have played their last games in Aussie colours. Some have also called for Meninga to move on, with Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett touted as potential replacements.

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But leading journalist David Riccio has revealed the coach will be offered a contract extension. The loss was just the Kangaroos' third in 27 games with Meninga in charge during his seven-year stint as national coach.

“It’s set to happen," Riccio said on SEN radio about Meninga's contract being extended. "I think it’s an important discussion point on the back of the result on the weekend.

“How quickly the knives came out for Mal Meninga after that performance and I am happy to question and put a spotlight on what happened in that performance, as far as the player’s attitude. I think once the dust settles - and everyone knows who the best coach is to continue to take the Kangaroos forward - I think the overwhelming support would be for Mal Meninga.

“The ALRC had indicated prior to this match that they were wishing to extend Mal, he is currently off contract. If the commission wanted to create some wiggle room and maybe some change, they have the opportunity, that is not the way I think they’ll go. I think they’ll push Mal Meninga’s contract out until the end of the World Cup (in 2026).”

Mal Meninga.
Mal Meninga looks on during the Pacific Championships. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Can Michael Maguire coach NSW and New Zealand?

There is also uncertainty surrounding the future of New Zealand coach Michael Maguire, who has reportedly been offered the vacant NSW job. Maguire reportedly wants to remain Kiwis coach and take up the NSW State of Origin role as well.

Maguire is also contracted as an assistant coach at the Canberra Raiders, who gave him permission to apply for the NSW job. “As far as retaining both positions, that’s the great debate, (it’s) unprecedented,” Riccio said. “We have not had the head coach of a State of Origin side also remain as an international Test coach, that is what Michael Maguire will attempt.

“New Zealand Rugby League are yet to ratify that from their point of view, they weren’t over the moon that this story broke on the eve of the Pacific Championships. Time will tell whether they retain Michael Maguire as the head coach of the Kiwis.”

Michael Maguire.

Maguire has previously insisted he is committed to New Zealand and “100 per cent going to the World Cup” with the Kiwis in 2026. “It’s the most critical appointment in rugby league at this time,” Riccio said of the NSW job after Brad Fittler stepped down.

“In a perfect world, NSWRL would have Michael Maguire in at headquarters signing the contract (on Monday), he was scheduled to be on a flight back from New Zealand to Australia early this week. I expect it to happen, certainly all of the discussions were with the NSWRL and Maguire was, get through the Test, get through the final then come back into Sydney this week and get this deal done.

“Originally it was discussed that they could potentially get it done (on Monday) I just don’t think that will happen... but NSWRL would love for that to happen.”

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