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Meninga 'can't help' coach bias: Elias

By Laine Clark 08/12/2008 06:40:19 PM Comments (0)

Still nursing the mental scars of an infamous 1985 tour, Ben Elias says Queensland mentor Mal Meninga should not get the Kangaroos coaching job because some might consider him biased towards Maroons players.

Meninga is tipped to put his hand up for the role after Kangaroos coach Ricky Stuart stood down on Monday over his post-World Cup dummy spit at officials.

But ex-Australian hooker Elias believed Meninga's appointment could create the same "us and them" mentality among players that dogged the Kangaroos' 1985 tour of New Zealand when Terry Fearnley juggled the NSW and national roles.

Elias made his international debut in the 1985 series' third Test but described the Kiwi tour as "the worst experience of my representative career".

Fearnley drew the ire of many north of the Tweed when he replaced four Queenslanders with NSW players - including Elias - for the third Test at Auckland.

The controversial move was described as a case of "football assassination" by the then-QRL boss Ron McAuliffe.

A disjointed Australian outfit was thrashed 18-0 by the Kiwis, but Fearnley's squad won the series 2-1.

The Queensland Rugby League have already backed Meninga's appointment as Kangaroos coach.

But Elias was adamant that someone without state or NRL links should coach the Kangaroos.

"Terry Fearnley tried to do it in 1985," Elias told AAP.

"It was the worst experience of my representative career.

"You are supposed to be playing for Australia and there was this us and them feeling."

Elias said he had plenty of respect for his former Kangaroos teammate Meninga but believed it would be "human nature" if he preferred Queensland players as Australian coach.

"I'm not knocking Mal. If I had an opportunity to coach Australia you would be mad not to put your hand up," Elias said.

"But human nature prevails. You can't help having a bias towards people who you coach.

"You coach them, train with them, respect them - you will want to give them a shot.

"I have always been a believer that there should be an independent coach - even at State of Origin level."

But Elias stood up for Stuart on Monday.

"I am a fan of Ricky personally and professionally," he said.

"He stuffed up but he has apologised to no end - I think he should be judged on his results."

One of the Queenslanders dumped from the 1985 third Test team, Greg Dowling, said he had let bygones be bygones and backed Meninga to juggle both roles.

"I couldn't think of a better person to take charge," he told AAP.

"You've got to pick the best man for the job and right now that's Mal."

Asked if he was over the 1985 controversy, Dowling said: "Time heals all wounds".

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