KEVIN Walters has declared he has unfinished business as the Queensland coach prepares to lead the Maroons to a new frontier when State of Origin makes its debut in South Australia next year.
The NRL has released the playing schedule for 2020 State of Origin series with the famous Adelaide Oval to host an interstate clash for the first time when Queensland and NSW square off in the series opener on Wednesday, June 3.
Game Two will be played in Sydney on Sunday, June 21 before a historic night at Suncorp Stadium when Game Three is staged on July 8.
That date will precisely mark the 40th anniversary of State of Origin, which was launched on July 8, 1980, when Queensland legend Arthur Beetson famously led the Maroons onto Lang Park for an epic 20-10 victory which kick-started a ferocious interstate rivalry.
For Walters, the 2020 campaign – his fifth in charge of the Maroons – will carry added meaning as he comes off contract next year.
Despite having lost back-to-back series, the Queensland Rugby League are so pleased with Walters’ reconstruction of the Maroons they have held preliminary talks to extend his contract beyond the 2020 season.
“I’m very happy in my role with the Queensland Rugby League and there’s more I want to achieve with the Maroons,” Walters said.
“I’m contracted with Queensland for another year, and after the disappointment of this year (Queensland’s 2-1 series loss to NSW), I want to keep taking the Maroons forward.
“I’ve overseen a lot of change with our program in the last four years. I’ve brought through a lot of new faces, and I love working with a great group of Queensland players led by Kalyn Ponga, Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster.
“I’m very happy with Queensland so that’s my focus.”
The Maroons have had a tough time visiting foreign Origin markets.
In 2015, they lost 26-18 to the Blues in Melbourne before another defeat, 22-12, at the MCG last year.
Then, in Perth’s inaugural Origin clash at Optus Stadium in June, the Maroons were flogged 38-6 in Game Two as NSW laid the foundation for a series win.
But despite that humble record on the road, Walters is backing the Adelaide experiment in AFL heartland.
“I’m looking forward to coming over to Adelaide,” he said.
“It opens up avenues for lots of kids to see rugby league at the highest level in South Australia.
“Whilst we weren’t so successful from a Queensland point of view in Melbourne and Perth in recent years, it opens up the game to young children, particularly in areas like South Australia where the game isn’t as strong.
“If they can come along and watch another game like State of Origin it would be great.
“Rugby league people are pretty simple, they either cheer for blue or maroon at Origin time.
“The atmosphere in Melbourne and Perth was outstanding. It’s a thrill for our players to come to these great stadiums like Adelaide Oval.”
Queensland Rugby League chief executive Rob Moore said Walters was under no pressure to keep his job, lauding his development work following the departure of coach Mal Meninga and a host of champions.
“Kevvie has done a wonderful job,” Moore said.
“People look at the results match by match, but people should look at what’s happened in the last three years and what we have had to do in the last three years.
“We knew the transition would come and it’s come early. We’ve had injuries and retirements we didn’t envisage, including Cam Smith’s retirement, and we lost the core of a team that had won 10 series, so it’s hard to replace.
“Kevvie has had some tough challenges as coach but everything he has done has been exceptional.
“Kevvie has had two series losses, but even with all the series Mal Meninga won, there were a lot of games in the balance.
“This year’s series could have easily gone our way. It didn’t, we understand that. We are a humble group and Kevvie has our full support for next year.”