New Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga plans private chat with Paul Gallen

Time for a chat: New Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga plans to meet with Paul Gallen. Photo: Kate GeraghtyIncoming Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga says he will book in a time to sit down with Blues skipper Paul Gallen to make sure there is no tension between the pair.

Meninga has caused Gallen and the Blues so much pain over the past decade but Meninga doesn’t believe that he needs to clear the air with the NSW captain. Gallen has been the No.1 enemy in Queensland eyes and would have figured strongly in many a Meninga team talk.

“I want to talk to Paul because I value his opinion on the game,” he said. “There are no issues to sort out. I’ve been in the players’ shoes before – once you are playing for Australia you are unified.”

Gallen said the appointment of Meninga was a smart move.

“He is a legend of the game and he has been a huge success at everything he has done,” said Gallen, who has met Meninga a few times with their common friend Ricky Stuart providing the introduction.

“I want to play for Australia again,” Gallen said. “I’ve been really disappointed that injury and ASADA has kept me out of it on the last two occasions and it hurt watching us lose. I’ve always been proud of my contribution at the national level … I think I’ve played in two losing games and I want to make sure that if I warrant selection, I get to go out in a way that I am proud of. All this talk about teams being split by Origin, we get on just fine in camp. It’s all media talk.”

Wise choice: Blues captain Paul Gallen says Meninga is ”a legend of the game.”

The good news for Gallen is that Meninga doesn’t believe in succession planning – which was at the core of Tim Sheens’ thinking.

“Age is not a factor, players will be selected on merit,” he said.

Meninga set the pace in so many ways as a player and coach and now he’s doing things differently when it comes to management. He’s signed up with Sony – who now have a sports arm. “I haven’t signed up with them because I can sing,” he laughed. “Unless they were looking for a ‘worst-ever singers’ album – I could get a start on that.”

He has been guided by Denis Handlin, the highly respected and long-time CEO of Sony in Australia and New Zealand. After a decade as a Queensland Origin mentor, Handlin and Meninga got talking at a lunch after this year’s series and Meninga signed on to Parade Sports.

“Mal is the perfect person to launch this part of the business with,” Handlin told this column. “His reputation is unrivalled and he has been a success at every level of his sport. He is an inspirational person. Now that he is moving to Sydney we have a number of things planned for him. There is the opportunity for him to become involved in the media and we will have some talks there …

“I think there is the potential for money-can’t-buy experiences with Mal. We are also thinking of events around him and potentially involving him with some events where he will be involved with some of our Sony artists,” Handlin said.

Bill’s back on air

There is no prouder Victorian than Bill Lawry and there are few more deeply connected with Australian cricket than the legendary Nine commentator. So when he says the Boxing Day Test should be considered for night matches, it’s worth listening.

Lawry will return to the Nine commentary team on December 26 and he will be calling for the first time at the MCG since his great mate Richie Benaud passed away.

“It will be sad. I’ll look at his chair and of course I’ll miss him,” Lawry said. “We spent so much time together and had so many good times. I miss Greigy [Tony Greig], too. He must have reminded me of our 4-0 loss to South Africa 88 times.

“We had some pretty hot-headed guys when we started the commentary and Richie was always there to keep us all in line. Greigy always had an opinion and so does Ian Chappell, and Richie knew how to handle everyone. Plus no one handled situations better than him in a calling sense. There will never be anyone like him again and that’s not disrespectful to anyone I work with.

“I often catch up with Keith Stackpole and we talk about how lucky we were to be involved. But I’m so excited to be back. How could you not be for the MCG Test? It’s like the grand final of cricket.”

Lawry will also call the Sydney Test this year in a huge boost for viewers. He watched the pink-ball Test with great interest. He says it has revived this summer.

Proud Victorian: Bill Lawry will return to the Channel Nine commentary team for the Boxing Day Test. Photo: Ken Irwin

“I think that it’s here to stay,” he said. “The fans loved it, the revenue it generated, the TV audience – and we saw wickets fall. We got 37 wickets in three days. We were praying for wickets in the other Tests.

“When you see the crowds or the lack of them in some places overseas you realise you have to move with the times. It’s a competitive market and you can’t stand still. I understand the tradition of the Melbourne Test, but I don’t think that you can rule that out of the night Test equation. You have to look at that … I’m not sure that it will happen in my lifetime but it would be spectacular.

“The place would be packed and I know all of the tradition, but the way the game is going now you need to examine every area of it.”

Johns praise

Andrew Johns says Cowboys hero Johnathan Thurston has the game and durability to play on for another four seasons and it is “just a matter of time” until he becomes an Immortal. Thurston has two years on his deal but expect discussion to start about an extension in coming weeks. And with a new TV deal locked in, Thurston, 32, has the opportunity to make the kind of money that would dwarf his earlier contracts.

“I think Johnathan could play until his mid to late 30s,” said Johns. “Playing to 36 or 37 is not beyond him. His game does not rely on speed – he has so many other qualities. He has amazing durability and his fitness is just incredible. The only reason he couldn’t play until he is older than that is because of the way he gets so heavily involved in the game.”

Plaintiff Carney

This column has seen the Sharks’ defence as they try to fend off Todd Carney’s $3million claim for wrongful dismissal.

They are saying he brought the game into disrepute and breached his playing contract in doing so. They are also dishing out previous incidents that Carney was in trouble for at the club. They relate to an incident in Brisbane and turning up to training in a non fit and proper state.

The Sharks will also attempt to lodge a cross-claim saying that Carney’s behaviour cost them sponsors. This flies directly in the face of evidence that Carney’s management has, which shows the Sharks secured a new sponsor the day after the Carney drama. In fact, the Sharks say their sponsorship has been strong since that time even when you take into account the entire ASADA drama which had a far bigger prospect of damaging the club on that front.

Further meetings with Carney’s management regarding the case are expected this week. Carney has managed to put all of this to one side and focus on his latest challenge in France. He spent a large chunk of the off-season in Bali where he holidayed with Wade Graham before returning to Sydney to train.

Fresh NRL deal

Fratelli Fresh in Bridge Street was the location of choice for the NRL’s club bosses when it came time to celebrate their successful negotiation with John Grant.

They still need to formalise the agreement and they want to alter the constitution in case down the track they are stuck with a chairman they really don’t like. They want some wriggle room in case they get stuck with a loose cannon.

Despite the deal getting done there is still angst towards Grant. The clubs were of the view that he was being stubborn for the first three of four hours of the meeting for no good reason and that in the end he only came through with a deal because he was informed that clubs were signing up for an EGM.

There is also ill feeling towards Grant from the clubs because he was drawn on a line about responsible spending by the clubs. The view was that he didn’t express strong faith in the clubs to spend the money the right way. Time will tell.

Tiger troubles

Marty Taupau’s decision to leave the Tigers mid-contract was never fully explored because his deal was leaked by a Canadian theatre critic. That became the story, instead of his need to get out. You ask players why Taupau left and the whispered answer is that he didn’t want to be coached by Jason Taylor.

At a media conference he was asked if being coached by Taylor was an issue. He gave a long answer about how he and Taylor are mates and that he will do anything for the man. There was no reference to how great it was being coached by Taylor.

Taylor-made?: Martin Taupau has decided to leave the Tigers mid-contract. Photo: Ben Rushton

My information is he didn’t like the way he was being played, didn’t like the position he was playing and the gluten free diet that the players were on at the club. He laughed off my line of questioning. “There’s no bad blood,” he said. “Only respect.” And I asked the strongest man in the game if he was still avoiding gluten. “I eat whatever … I eat food,” he said.

Then there is the man most likely or at least best-credentialed to be the Tigers leader – Aaron Woods. There are rumblings he isn’t happy but again, when I suggested that, he waxed lyrical about how great the club is. If Woods is unhappy the Tigers are in real trouble. With Robbie Farah no longer the club’s centrepiece he is their heart and soul and he must be on the same page as Taylor.

Working on SBW

David Gyngell, the former Nine boss and potential Australian Rugby League commissioner or chairman in waiting is in the shape of his life. So much so that he was spotted training with his good mate Sonny Bill Williams before SBW left for the Dubai Sevens and his mission to visit children in refugee camps in Lebanon.

No doubt Gyngell’s relationship with SBW will be a significant factor as the Roosters try and bring him back to the game. SBW has enormous regard for Gyngell and the man who brought him back to the NRL, Nick Politis.

It’s his personal relationship with those men that will talk louder than any dollars that the Roosters will be able to throw his way. What is certain is that no NRL team will be able to match the dollars that French rugby will be able to toss at SBW. He does have a real desire to settle in Sydney in the long term and that works in league’s favour.

Swift reaction

Taylor Swift has a broad appeal — how else could you explain the wide range of sports stars and officials who were among the 76,000 at ANZ Stadium last weekend?

Greg Inglis and his wife Sally flew back from holidays to catch Tay Tay and they were in a box with Swans star Kieran Jack. Fox Sports presenter Matt Shirvington was dancing along with his wife and kids and Dave Smith was there with his family.

■ Danny Weidler is a Nine reporter.

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