QUEENSLAND coach Kevin Walters says the way he analyses games has not changed since he became the Maroons’ boss. He’s still watching out for “the family”.
With anticipation building towards this year’s State of Origin series, which begins in June, Walters has been doing his homework – watching the form of all Queensland contenders who are pushing for start in the new coach’s Maroons squad for Game 1.
But Walters, who is also a rugby league analyst for Fox Sports and Triple M, said stepping up from assistant coach to the Maroons’ main man had not meant any change in the way he reviews NRL matches – because he was already favouring the Queenslanders anyway.
“You always keep an eye on the Queensland blokes, because they’re one of your own. They’re family,” Walters told fogs.com.au.
“There is a special place for them in your mind, and that hasn’t changed.
“Working in club land, either at the Storm, the Knights or the Broncos, I was always keeping an eye on the Queenslanders and how they were performing.
“Origin is an all-consuming beast. Obviously it is on your mind wherever you go.
“It is the last thing you think of before going to sleep at night, and the first thing you think about waking up in the morning. But that is what Origin requires.
“It will be on us before we know it, and we want to make sure when it does arrive that we are as best prepared and as ready as we can be.
“When everyone gets together for the camp, I want everyone to settle straight into the rhythm that we have enjoyed over the previous years.”
One of the many challenges awaiting Walters in his first year as coach this year will be choosing a squad capable of handling the furnace of Origin under the new reduced interchange rules.
NSW coach Laurie Daley has already said publicly he will change his selection policy to include a utility on the bench because of the new interchange rules, but Walters said the Maroons were already ahead of the curve on the issue.
“The interchange changes your thinking a little bit, because you certainly have to take it into account, alongside factors like fatigue and injury,” he said.
“But I think the new interchange rules probably fit right into what Queensland was doing under Mal (Meninga) anyway.
“I think you see now that most teams elect to carry that utility style of player to cover a few positions.
“By the time Origin comes around, the players will be used to the workload under the new interchange system.
“But Origin is another step up again in pace, physicality and intensity, and that will take some dealing with for the players out in the middle.
“I am very conscious of the impact that losing an outside back to injury can have on your side.
“In years gone by with the old interchange, you were able to cover those losses more easily by moving a few blokes around.
“But now, if someone has to come off, it is a big hole that is left for someone to fill. That is why you need good balance across your squad, and that will be one thing we will be doing.”