Obituary: Paul Green – The NRL Premiership-winning coach lost far too soon

PAUL GREEN (September 12, 1972 – August 11, 2022)

Paul Green was a proud Queenslander who both played for and coached the state in Origin and did much to put the North-Eastern coastal city of Townsville on the Rugby League map.

For the former Australia halfback, who shocked the sport by taking his own life at the age of 49, guided North Queensland Cowboys, founded in 1992, to their first NRL title in 2015.

That came via a Johnathan Thurston-inspired 17-16 golden-point Grand Final win over Brisbane Broncos, Green’s home-city club, where he both played and started his coaching career.

And the Cowboys followed it up by beating Leeds 38-4 at Headingley to win the World Club Challenge in January 2016 and returning to the Grand Final in 2017, when without their two top players, scrum-half Thurston and prop Matt Scott, they were beaten 24-6 by Melbourne Storm.

Green, who led Brisbane Bayside club Wynnum-Manly Seagulls to back-to-back Queensland Cup titles in 2011 and 2012 before working on the coaching staff at Sydney Roosters, led the Cowboys between 2014 and 2020, also guiding the club to two NRL Nines triumphs.

He coached Queensland, for whom he played seven times between 1998 and 2001, for the 2021 Origin series, which New South Wales won 2-1.

And as NRL chiefs became worried about staging the opening game in Covid-hit Melbourne, he was instrumental in Townsville hosting an Origin match for the first time, with a sell-out 27,533 witnessing a 50-6 Blues victory at the Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

New South Wales were 26-0 winners at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane before Green, who had to deal with a string of fitness problems and controversies outside his control, such as the Ronaldo Mulitalo eligibility row and Jai Arrow’s Covid breach, saved the Maroons from a whitewash via a 20-18 success at the Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium.

“Paul was the one who was most instrumental in getting that game to Townsville,” said Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher. “He was very passionate about North Queensland.

“His approach to Origin was exemplary. He was a very well-planned coach, but all our Queensland teams were in the bottom half of the NRL that year. Our key-position players weren’t performing well and we had a lot of injuries.

“We had so much adversity, but he took the job on and did it. We won the third game against incredible odds.

“He was very appreciative of the opportunity and was honest enough to say he really wanted to coach full-time in the NRL again, so couldn’t commit to a longer contract.”

It’s emerged that Green, who as a player made 162 first-grade appearances for Cronulla Sharks, the Cowboys, the Roosters, Parramatta Eels and the Broncos and represented Australia in two games against New Zealand in 1997, was set to take a job assisting Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane-based Dolphins, who will next year become Queensland’s fourth NRL club after the Broncos, the Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans.

He leaves a wife Amanda and children Emerson and Jed.

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