QRL boss preparing for Walters to stay with Maroons

The Queensland Rugby League is preparing for Kevin Walters to coach the Maroons until at least the end of the 2020 series despite the 51-year-old continuing to be linked to the Gold Coast Titans.

QRL managing director Rob Moore, speaking at the launch of the NRL’s new introductory participation program League Stars in Brisbane, pointed to Walters’s statement after the end of the Holden State of the Origin series that he intended to see out his contract with the Maroons.

Walters has since said he would not be seeking an interview with the Titans, all but ruling himself out of the race to replace Garth Brennan.

There is speculation Walters may consider the role if directly head-hunted by the Titans but that is unlikely to occur based on the club outlining a process that will be undertaken to find the best possible candidate.

"I just go on what Kevvie said after game three that he is preparing to coach the Maroons next year. We are preparing for him to coach the Maroons next year," Moore said.

Moore and Walters have met for a debrief since the Origin series, lost 2-1 by the Maroons.

The QRL boss paid tribute to Walters’ success in winning two series and losing two narrowly during a transition period for the Maroons.

The retirements of Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston at the end of the 2017 series were followed by the shock retirement of Cameron Smith on the eve of the 2018 series and then by Billy Slater at the end of game three last year. The sudden retirement of former captain Greg Inglis earlier this year was also unexpected.  

Moore said Walters should take "enormous credit" for holding the Maroons together during his tenure.

"To do that, and to not expect to have it to do it, is a real test and he has done a really good job of nurturing those young boys and bringing them through," Moore said.

“I think at times people and other commentators look at one result of one game and make a determination on a performance.

"What you really need to look back on is the last four-year period and the players that have been lost. We knew that they were going to be lost but not at the time that they did. It snuck up on us and then we lost a big bunch in a group, then last year with Cam at the last minute.

"To come back from that and perform the way we did is just enormous from everyone involved in the program. We have a whole bunch of new young players coming through and they acquitted themselves really well, particularly in game three which was there for the taking."

QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher was quoted recently in The Australian, in the context of the possible loss of Walters to club coaching, that "any interim move would be a Wayne Bennett" on the Maroons coaching front. Bennett, who last coached Queensland in 2003, has said since that he would answer an SOS by the QRL if called upon.

"The QRL’s view is that there is limited coaches out there and Wayne would be one that would be eligible to be considered," Moore said.

"If you run through the list of coaches in the NRL that are Queensland born, bred or based it is not a deep pool so you have got to look at every option if it comes to that."

Bennett, now in charge of the Rabbitohs, juggled coaching at club level and the Maroons in the past and has said he could do the same in the future.

Moore said that the investment into the Origin program and ancillary programs around the Queensland team was now greater than in the past but added that the QRL  did not have a hard and fast rule on whether a Maroons coach could also juggle a club role.