Queensland's underdog State of Origin outfit will be powered by a coaching dream team with Mal Meninga set to join Wayne Bennett's staff for next month's series.
Australia coach Meninga was pipped for the Maroons job by Bennett when Kevin Walters was forced to relinquish the role after being appointed Brisbane NRL coach.
But Meninga's follow-up offer of support has been accepted by Bennett, and the Australian Rugby League commission on Thursday conceded there were "exceptional circumstances" in approving the move.
With no Tests scheduled for this year, Meninga will temporarily step down from his national duties and forgo his Kangaroos salary to join Bennett.
The pair first worked together at Brisbane's police academy more than 40 years ago while Bennett coached Test centre Meninga in the Brisbane Rugby League as well as for Canberra and Queensland.
The pair boast 14 series wins between them as Queensland coach, while the experienced Neil Henry - a key strategist behind Meninga's eight-straight series wins - has replaced Justin Hodges on Bennett's staff.
Meninga's arrival gives unprecedented coaching punch to a greenhorn squad out to defy an injury list that includes Kalyn Ponga, David Fifita, Michael Morgan and Moses Mbye, while Valentine Holmes is suspended for the November 4 series opener.
"From my perspective, it's great to be involved and to work under Wayne and the current batch of players is something that I'm really excited about," Meninga said.
"It's been a unique year, and with no Test matches, this position allows me to remain in touch with the latest trends in the game."
Bennett said Meninga would prove to be the perfect sounding board as they plot to deny NSW a third series win in a row.
"He understands Origin and cares deeply about the maroon jersey and what it means to the people of Queensland," he said.
"I'm really glad Mal has accepted the role, as his presence alone will be a great asset for us moving forward."
Young Brisbane forward Patrick Carrigan believes he has the stomach for the Origin cauldron and is excited to again rub shoulders with his former Broncos coach Bennett.
"The opportunity to be in his presence and learn off him and other guys ... when you walk into the sheds or training paddock with Wayne there you automatically get a vote of confidence," Carrigan said.
Carrigan was just two years old when Bennett blooded 10 debutants in a 2001 series Queensland won.
"Growing up in Queensland, if you love rugby league you know what it's all about," Carrigan said.
"You back yourself a little bit, but it's always cool to look back at the past (to channel the underdog mentality).
"There's been a lot of players to step into this arena and do their job."
Australian Associated Press