Newly appointed Queensland coach Billy Slater insists he will bring his own style to the job and wants former Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos team-mate Cameron Smith to work beside him.
Slater, who played 31 Origins and was a key member of Queensland's eight-year domination of the interstate series, has been announced as the Maroons' next coach after being approached to replace Paul Green two weeks ago.
The 38-year-old has no head coaching experience but has played under some of the game’s best coaches, including Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy and former Queensland mentor Mal Meninga.
He is also renowned for his work ethic, communication skills, attention to detail, passion and tactical nous, with Bellamy revealing that he regularly calls on Slater’s football knowledge.
“It is really important for me to be me,” Slater said on Friday. “I can’t go in there and pretend to be an NRL coach who I have been coached by or a State of Origin coach who I have been coached by.
“I think the buck stops with the head coach and I am more than comfortable to be in that position.
“It is important that I bring my strengths and [deal with] the inexperience I have by making sure that I get propped up by the people around me.”
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Wayne Bennett and Neil Henry have been mentioned as possible mentors, while Smith and fellow Maroons great Johnathan Thurston are expected to help Slater launch a new era for Queensland.
Thurston was an assistant to Green in this year’s 2-1 series loss, while Slater said Smith was not only well credentialed but rivalled Wally Lewis for the tag of Queensland’s greatest player.
“I am very close to Cam,” Slater said. “I have had some private discussions. But in terms of official approaches I haven’t spoken to anyone. I thought if I am going to lead this team it is important for me to commit first.
“Over the next few months, we will put in place a team around this footy side. There are a number of candidates to be in and around this squad, whether they are mentors, assistant coaches or support staff.
“Hopefully we can get a great squad together and have a great support staff to put around them.”
Former Maroons and Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer backed Slater to ensure a strong Queensland team next season and in the future.
“It is exciting because he brings a lot of energy to everything he does and he knows the game very well so tactically he will have some great ideas.
“I think the biggest challenge will be getting that mentorship right. He will have the tactics right and he will be able to drive home the message of how privileged you are to play for Queensland, so it is just managing people.
“You pick your best 17 for an Origin game but there is a bit more to it than that and I think he has got one eye on the now but he has also got an eye on creating more depth.”
This team means a lot to me. It always has.Billy Slater
Slater said that the Maroons have always had less players to choose from than NSW but “our best at their best is good”.
“I am not teaching a group of doctors to do brain surgery, I am teaching footballers to play football and trying to coach them,” he said.
“My job will be getting the players developed, getting the players to perform at their best, setting an environment and setting people around these players to best be prepared to play at their optimum in that Origin game.
“I have been very passionate about the Queensland State of Origin team for a long time and I know the impact it has on the Queensland people.
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“I have got no ambitions to be an NRL coach. I really enjoy my commentary role with Channel 9, I have got an individual specific role with the Melbourne Storm and this is something I am passionate about and I feel like I can contribute to.”
Bellamy, who engages Slater in a consultancy role with the Storm, said his commitment and knowledge of the game would ensure he succeeded in the Maroons job.
“I know he will do well, and I don’t think Queensland could be in better hands,” Bellamy said.
“We all want results and we all want success but one thing I’ve always loved about Billy is he is always prepared to put the hard work in to build that success. I am sure he will do the same for Queensland.”
Incoming QRL chief executive officer Rohan Sawyer said he was excited about the future of the Maroons with Slater at the helm.
"Once we determined it was in our best interests to secure a coach who could provide leadership to a young playing group over multiple series, Billy was the standout option," Sawyer said.
"We’re delighted to secure the services of such a passionate Queenslander, and we’re now very much looking forward to planning for the future and providing as much support for Billy as possible to help set him up for success.
"The all-round education he can provide to our playing group is exciting, and his technical thinking offers another element as well."
Slater, who represented Australia in 30 Test matches and played 323 games for the Melbourne Storm, was the Dally M Player of the Year in 2011, and the 2008 Golden Boot winner.