It all seems so out of character for the Kevin Walters we know. Picture: Adam Head
It all seems so out of character for the Kevin Walters we know. Picture: Adam Head

Badel: Bring back the real Kevvie

STATE of Origin is pantomime at the best of times, but something particularly peculiar has happened over the past 10 days.

Kevvie is no longer Kevvie. Or at least that's how it appears.

When Cooper Cronk rolled his ankle before game one of 2016, just days into Kevin Walters' new era as Queensland coach, the Maroons had their traditional injury crisis in full swing as the will-he-or-won't-he-play inquisition began.

I was among the media pack seeking answers from Walters when he delivered a famous line after being asked whether he was foxing about the state of Cronk's ankle.

"Mate, I grew up in Ipswich," Walters said with a disarming smile.

"We don't know what smoke and mirrors are, so we're as honest as the day is long."

The beauty of Walters is that the boy from "Ippy" has always been approachable, and never conspiratorial.

He has never dabbled in the mind games that marked the reigns of NSW coach Ricky Stuart and Queensland counterpart Mal Meninga, who relished playing every angle, subscribing to the theory that Origin was won between the ears.

Now, suddenly, Kevvie is all ears, exploring the power of the mind.

The man who chuckled at the notion of smoke-and-mirrors injury deception has turned to smoke-and-mirrors methods to reclaim the Origin shield from NSW.

Revelations that Walters has sought personal help from a mind coach, Bradley Charles Stubbs, to teach him the "science of belief" is bizarre, baffling and seemingly at odds with the man who won his first two Origin campaigns by simply being himself.

Walters' approach to this year’s series has been very different. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP
Walters' approach to this year’s series has been very different. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

Now, following sessions with Stubbs, Walters seems different. He is pointing like Donald Trump.

He has gagged Maroons players from mentioning NSW. The charming humility has been replaced by a veneer of hostility. The wisecracks have ceased.

He has trumpeted "we will win", discarding the underdog cloak that kept Queensland warm and fuzzy for decades.

Maroons insiders say Walters has never been so intense and focused during his four-year reign.

Stubbs, who worked with Trent Robinson last year in the Roosters' surge to the title, charges $5500 an hour for his services. His 90-day "believer-ship" program costs $99,000.

It is understood Walters has not been charged such exorbitant rates.

As part of Stubbs' "1 per cent advantage", the mind guru asks his clients to face themselves in the mirror and read a specifically tailored message every morning when they wake up, and again before they go to sleep.

The aim is to build internal trust.

One wonders what the Maroons make of it all. Picture: Adam Head
One wonders what the Maroons make of it all. Picture: Adam Head

Can you imagine Kevvie waking up, staring at the man in the mirror, and chanting: "Queenslander! We will win, we will win, we will win."

It is all so un-Ipswich, fuelling a perception Walters has lost sight of who he is, and is perhaps still wounded from missing out on the Broncos job last year.

"No, I haven't lost the plot. My wife thinks I have sometimes," Walters said on Tuesday, just moments after his good mate Allan Langer had his statue unveiled at Suncorp Stadium.

Langer, flashing his cheeky grin, couldn't resist.

"I wouldn't say he has lost the plot," 'Alf' said. "But I have seen him on the drink … and I thought he was on the drink all week."

Asked if he was putting on an act, Walters hit back.

"It is not an act," he said. "You know me well enough. Have I got energy? Always."

Of Stubbs' contribution, Walters said: "He has been good for us. He has a good history and a great record working with coaches … it's been great for us."

The mystery around Kevvie's hiring of Stubbs - and his subsequent shift in behaviour - has made Walters the central narrative of this year's Origin campaign.

If Walters wins, he's a genius, and Stubbs will no doubt tap-dance into the limelight in a blaze of glorious publicity.

If he loses, Walters faces brickbats for turning to some mental mumbo-jumbo.

Either way, Kevvie should just be Kevvie, winning his way - without the smoke and mirrors.

News Corp Australia


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