The guessing game is finally over. After countless years of speculation we are finally going to see the true worth of Kevin Walters the rugby league coach.

For almost a decade there has been a fervent debate in rugby league between many former players who insist Walters has the tools to be a successful first grade coach and board members of several clubs who were never as sure.

There has been a wide gulf between their views and for many seasons Walters' first grade aspirations were swallowed up by it.

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Suggestions that his job presentations were too simple were countered with the fact that simplicity is what rugby league is all about (Hi Wayne) and games are not won with pie charts.

Fears that he may not handle the pressure are challenged by statistics revealing he won six NRL premierships as a player and is admirably cool in the coaching box during the white hot intensity of State of Origin games.

The bottom line is all the "Kevvie clubland theories'' have been guesswork but now, at age 53, his season of reason has arrived.

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Walters coached Queensland for four years at Origin level for an honourable 2-2 record in an era of substantial change.

But it's difficult to quantify how much he had to do with their wins and losses because Origin series can spin on a six pence.

Club jobs are different.

The brutal, relentless grind of six months of home-and-away games before the finals weeks is a solid body of evidence to judge any coach.

Luck plays its part but you normally get what you deserve.

"It does feel different certainly," Walters said on Thursday as he prepared for the first match in a job he has craved since retiring as a player 20 years ago.

"Origin is different, this is a week-to-week thing, we have 25 weeks of this preparation. Origin is a three-match series and it's run and won before you know it. This is a longer race and it's a race I am really ready for. We are starting in an equal position and I expect our guys to give a performance they know they can play to, that's all I'm expecting of them.''


Kevin Walters coached Queensland to two State of Origin series wins in his four years. Picture: AAP
Kevin Walters coached Queensland to two State of Origin series wins in his four years. Picture: AAP

In a sense, Walters is a prisoner of the past in that he was left with a poor roster that has Anthony Milford on $1 million, Matt Lodge on a long term deal and no major imports to bolster a side which won just three games last season.

But part of succeeding in clubland is working with the list shaped by the man you replaced who was generally sacked because he wasn't performing.

Every skill in Walters coaching toolbox will be on the table this year as he tries to lift the self-esteem level of a squad which will need cajoling at times and a kick up the backside at others.

"I love being part of the club again. I have watched from afar, but now I get a chance with the coaching and performance staff to have an impact on the club. Tomorrow is about the players and what they can bring to this great club. They are putting the jersey on and represent all of Queensland, so they have to put in a performance we are proud of.''

Four men have coached the Broncos but only one - Wayne Bennett - has truly handled the pressure.

The list needs to grow to two this season for the 50-1 shots to surprise the rugby league world.



Originally published as Crash: Debate on Walters will be resolved at last

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