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What Origin means to Steve Walters

Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent NRL.com Mon, Jul 07, 2014 - 6:00 AM

An injury to younger brother Kerrod opened the way for Steve Walters to make his Origin debut in 1990. Copyright: NRL Photos

In 1990 a famous Australian sporting family was dealt the most awkward conversation for the dinner table when one brother was selected for a senior representative team over another.

It was also the same year that Steve Waugh was dropped in favour of twin brother Mark in the Australian cricket team.

Steve Walters got his maiden Origin nod for Game One of the 1990 Series courtesy of an injury to younger brother Kerrod, who had been man of the match in Game Three of Queensland's whitewash of the 1989 Series, one of the most lopsided Series in Origin history and the Maroons' second-straight clean sweep.

Kerrod was reinstated for games Two and Three after Queensland had been defeated in Game One 8-0 but joining the Maroons camp for the first time, Steve was overcome with excitement of the chance to play alongside Wally Lewis.

Until...

"I was really excited because I thought, Well, most people don't get to play one game, I get to play an Origin with Wally Lewis," Walters recalls. "For every kid in those days, Wally Lewis was the king, and still is. He hadn't missed a game ever and had played every game since 1980 and then my one game, my first game, he drops out injured.

"You can imagine how influential he was in those years for Queensland, uncharted waters when he's not playing and captain. I was pretty nervous anyway because it was my first game but if anyone is going to drop out from either team you don't want it to be him.

"That's what I remember about it. I remember being crushed at the time because it was more than likely going to be my one and only game and he didn't play.

"He was in camp for a little bit, he had a hamstring problem. I can remember him doing hamstring tests, running up and down the hallway of the hotel, they were checking him for this and that and he didn't play."

Courtesy of a suspension to Kerrod that coincided with Game One of the 1991 Series, Steve did get his chance to share The King's Origin stage and this time performed to such a level that he was retained for the remaining two games in a Series in which Queensland won and in which all three games were decided by a margin of two points.

Kerrod played just one further Origin game – Game Two, 1994 – while Steve would go on to play 14, six shy of brother Kevin's 20 Origins.

It's a remarkable imprint for one family to make on the fabric of State of Origin but Steve says he and Kerrod remained philosophical of the opportunities they were both presented with.

"You'd rather you weren't competing directly against your own brother and playing hooker you're either in or you're out," Steve says. "We sort of looked at it that it worked out OK. We both got a chance to play and he got the chance to win premierships with the Broncos and I did with the Raiders so it all worked out about even and pretty good."

The entire Walters clan – Sandra, Kevin Snr, Brett, Steve, Andrew, Kerrod and Kevin – piled into the car and drove from Ipswich to watch Arthur Beetson lead Queensland for the one and only occasion in 1980.

And even though he says Kevin would often pretend to be the Blues captain for that first Origin, Tommy Raudonikis, in their games of backyard footy at home, Steve said it was the uniting of a state that made Origin the event that it remains to this day.

"It was a big occasion and we all went because there was the Rod Reddys and the John Langs and Arthur Beetsons that had played for NSW were playing for us and we wanted to go," he recalls.

"It's the emotional attachment. Origin's got a real good way of pulling the community together and still more so than ever, it gets people interested who don't watch other games. They might be the only three games they watch all year, which is great.

"People might say I'm biased but it's been driven by the Queensland people from the start. They pushed it and got really proud and got the momentum behind it and then NSW kept getting beat and then got jack of that and got involved, which was great.

"It's big, if not bigger than it's ever been."