Paul Green is remembered as an intensely competitive larrikin who’d bleed for his club and his mates
The first thing you notice about Paul Green were his eyes.
At first glance there was the larrikin nature and the smile of the schoolboy that endeared him to so many people.
But behind those blue-grey, almost slate eyes, there was a fire that burned around the clock.
I first met Green when he was hired to coach the Wynnum Manly Seagulls in 2010. A former North Queensland sports reporter, the club quickly became my adopted team as I raised a young family on the Brisbane Bay.
More than just a suburban club, the Seagulls were a local institution and Green enjoyed being a part of the community and demanded that his charge respect their jerseys in the same way.
The team he led to successive premierships reflected Green’s own playing career.
Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys celebrates with coach Paul Green after winning the 2015 NRL Grand Final
Cowboys coach Paul Green holds the NRL trophy after winning the premiership in 2015
They didn’t have the biggest names – the Brisbane Broncos gobbled them up quickly – or the flashiest, fastest and strongest players, but they had guts, determination and a conviction that only Green could bring to a club.
When it came time to return to Townsville with my family, Green followed.
“This man will be the one to bring us that premiership,” I would declare to anyone who wants to hear it.
In 2015, after years of shocking refereeing decisions that robbed the Cowboys of a chance at NRL glory, he did damn well.
As a player, Green was never the most talented in the park, nor the strongest or strongest.
Leaving only one skill to target – to be the most competitive.
Cowboys stars Matthew Scott and Johnathan Thurston (center) celebrate 2015 NRL title with Paul Green (right)
Cowboys coach Paul Green is sprayed with champagne by his players after winning the 2015 NRL Grand Final
Green leaves behind his wife Amanda and his children Jed and Emerson (pictured together) after his sudden death on Thursday
He was chosen for the Queensland Maroons in the late 1990s, despite playing for the North Queensland Cowboys when they were the NRL’s joke.
He helped them get off that canvas and was instrumental in establishing the credibility that would eventually lead to a first appearance in the final in 2004 after he left.
The same was true for him as a coach.
Green’s eyes would squint and burn as he measured every man and blade of grass in a field.
Success succeeded him as assistant to Sydney Roosters, as head coach of Wynnum Manly, with the Cowboys, where he dragged North Queensland to the promised land of an NRL premiership in 2015.
Green was also successful at Origin level with Queensland (pictured after game three of the 2021 series)
Green embraces Queensland halfback Daly Cherry-Evans after the Maroons won game three of last year’s State of Origin series – his last game as coach
Outside of football, Green loved a drink and he loved his players. Once success was in the bag, he would celebrate long and hard, hugging all those dear to him.
But those eyes would still burn, because Green wouldn’t let fools.
From a journalist’s perspective, you always had to be prepared.
He would openly challenge you right away if you asked the tough questions. If you couldn’t substantiate your question or claim, you would look foolish.
Green successfully fed not only for himself, but for the club or state colors he would bleed for.
His time on this earth has been shockingly shortened. But his legacy will remain.
The halfback won the Rothmans Medal in 1995 when he played for Cronulla (pictured) – the team he also helped to the Super League grand final in 1997
Green had the competitive advantage of taking teams like the Cowboys to the top where few thought they belonged.
North Queensland should erect a statue to him in Townsville for all he has done for the club.
The Wynnum Manly Leagues club will roar tonight as hundreds descend to the watering hole by the bay to remember their fallen coach and brother.
It will be the same in Sydney, at the Brisbane Broncos Red Hill base, the Cronulla-Sutherland Shire, Parramatta and beyond.
Vale Paul Green. You left an impression on everyone who had the pleasure of meeting you.
Let’s hope they get those eyes right when that statue is erected in Townsville.