By Shell on Jun. 14, 2022
Even if you don’t follow rugby league, you’ve likely heard the name Billy Slater. The now-retired fullback played for Melbourne Storm between 2003-2018, winning four grand finals, two Clive Churchill Medals and the Dally M Medal. During his on-field career he played 31 State of Origin games for the Queensland Maroons, and was announced as the team’s new coach in 2021. Here, he talks about his evolution from player to coach, and what he’s most looking forward to in the 2022 series.
1. What has been one of the biggest challenges in taking on a coaching role? I don’t really see it as a ‘biggest challenge’, but my first challenge was to get the right people in the right positions. I wanted to make sure I identified who was best placed to help our players. It’s a luxury we have in Queensland to get these great minds involved in our program, after a long period of success. So it’s not a big challenge, but it was the first really important one to try and get right.
2. How important is it to evolve as a coach? Coaches that I have been close to have always had an evolution. Mal [Meninga]’s time coaching Queensland through a great period involved plenty of change, and I have seen Craig [Bellamy]’s evolution firsthand. It’s really important to be able to adapt to change, because the game doesn’t stand still. Wayne [Bennett] was another one who was often ahead of the game. You need to evolve in coaching and playing, to stay relevant. This is definitely something I will need to do. I’m just starting my journey as a head coach, but it is something I always looked to do as a player, to make sure I stay on top of my game.
3. What has inspired your coaching style? I’ve been asked this question a few times, about what sort of coach I’m going to be. The truth is I think my style will just find its natural place. There are some things I want to do, but I want our team to shape the way we play. This is a hard question for someone just starting their career, because I don’t want to put any restrictions on myself. I’ll focus on the things I think are important in the game, but you have to move with the strength of the team and the players. I have some structure around the things I see as important, but coaching requires an ability to adapt to the situation and strengths of the team.
4. How will you keep the team motivated? The team is playing for Queensland. As a player I didn’t ever need much motivation for this. I don’t think there is much of a challenge to motivate our group to play for the Maroon jersey.
5. What is your all-time Origin highlight? I am looking forward to the next highlight, in the future. I’m excited about what Origin brings moving forward. Being involved as a coach, I’m looking forward to what Origin means for Queensland. I am very fortunate to have been involved in a great era in Queensland Rugby League history in a playing capacity, but I would love nothing more than for this current group to be held in that high regard.
6. What were you looking for in the players you selected? I look for consistent actions. Specifically, the actions we want to see from players in a Queensland jersey. If players are performing those actions consistently in the club environment, they’re in the best position to be able to perform in the pressure cooker environment that is Origin. I watch our Queensland players very closely, and there are lots of actions under that umbrella that I look for. It’s the consistency that affords you the opportunity to wear the Maroon jersey.
7. Tell us a bit about your 2022 coaching panel – what do each of them bring to the team? We bring a whole lot of different strengths within the staff. We have all played the game, and all played the game in that arena. We have a group of guys coaching that understand each area of the field, and this is really important. Cam [Smith] has an incredible knowledge of the middle of the field and his leadership attributes speak for themselves. JT [Johnathan Thurston] will help develop our halves capability and their capacity to manage the game. Josh [Hannay] obviously has strong playing credentials but he also has a tremendous knowledge of the game in a coaching capacity already. He has taken over some tough situations as a head coach in the NRL environment already. The other name involved in our program is Nate Myles. He’s not an official coach but he definitely assists in mentoring our middle forwards. It’s a great luxury to be able to lean on this group of staff.
Shell V-Power is a proud sponsor of the Queensland Maroons. Catch game 2 in the 2022 State of Origin series on June 26.