11th August 2010
In Profile - Mal Meninga
Meninga broke numerous rugby league records during his playing career. He retired with the most appearances, and most points for the Australian rugby league team, and became the top-point scorer for Queensland in State of Origin history. Meninga has since been honoured as a Member of the Order of Australia, has been inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame and has also been named at centre in both Queensland's and Australia's rugby league teams of the century.
Meninga made his first grade debut in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership at the age of 18 with Souths Magpies. From there he was first selected to play centre for Queensland in 1979, and the following year helped his state to a win in the first ever Rugby League State of Origin match against New South Wales, converting seven goals from seven attempts (Meninga was one of the last players to use the kicking style of punting the end of the football with the toe of the boot). Later that year he played in the Magpies' BRL Premiership grand final loss, scoring a try and kicking 3 goals. However, in 1981 Meninga again reached the grand final with Souths and won. The following year he was named man-of-the-match in Game 1 of the State of Origin and then toured Europe with the undefeated 1982 "Invincibles" Kangaroo squad.After many seasons and two (1981, 1985) premierships with the Magpies in the Brisbane League, in 1986, Meninga joined Souths teammate Gary Belcher at the Canberra Raiders, where they would play all of their New South Wales Rugby League premiership games. Meninga played in Canberra's loss to Manly in the 1987 Grand Final, kicking one goal. After being given the Raiders' captaincy, he led Canberra to their first premiership in 1989 after overcoming the highly fancied Balmain Tigers in the Grand Final. The following year Meninga led the Raiders to another grand final victory against the Penrith Panthers. He was also 1990's top try-scorer and top-point scorer, and was named as Rugby League Week's player of the year. Also that year, Meninga was named Britain's BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, the first rugby league player to win it.
Big Mal captained Australia for 23 Test matches between 1990 and 1994, and captained the Queensland State of Origin team for three years from 1992 to 1994. He remains the only player to captain a Kangaroo Tour on two occasions, in 1990 and 1994.
On Australia Day 1994 Meninga was made a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to rugby league football". Later that year he played his last game for the Canberra Raiders in the 1994 Grand Final where he led his team to victory over the Canterbury Bulldogs and to their third premiership in six years, scoring the last try of the match. On 4 December 1994 at Béziers, France, he captained Australia to a 74–0 victory over the French, scoring the final try of the game, and of his career.