Walters to expand Maroons squad in 2016
Maroons coach Kevin Walters will ask NRL clubs to release additional players mid-season to attend State of Origin camps in order to fast-track their development in the game's toughest arena.
As he announced a new-look coaching staff that includes Manly assistant Anthony Seibold, Queensland Academy of Sport strength and conditioning coach Chris Gaviglio, Dr Matthew Hislop (Sport and Exercise Medicine Physician) and Robert Godbolt (Physiotherapist), Walters intimated that he would expand the number of players invited into camp in the lead-up to each of the three Origin matches this year.
Both Queensland and New South Wales have been hindered in recent seasons by injury clouds that have hung over key players whilst in camp and Walters said the load on modern players is something he is very conscious of.
"The players are at the elite end of their sport and we need to make sure we continue to put the best people around them to support them in their performance and that's what I feel we've done," Walters said of his remodelled coaching staff that also includes for Queensland greats Allan Langer, Trevor Gillmeister, Steve Walters and Gavin Allen.
"It's a constant pressure from the NRL clubs and rightly so about the volume of work these players do, not only with the game but also in their preparation for the different Origin games. I'm very mindful of that and respectful of that because I have worked in club-land as well.
"I know how important it is for us to look after our elite players and that's the idea of getting Chris involved. He's got a great knowledge and background in player loads and player volume so he'll be instrumental in everything that we put together as far as our training procedures go.
"We've got some plans and some ideas that hopefully if we can get the support of the NRL clubs [we can increase the size of the squad].
"It's always tough through that period, different players on byes and all sorts of things, but bringing as many players as we can into that environment – particularly for a couple of days – is a great learning experience for a player."
In addition to their indoctrination into the Queensland Origin way of life, Walters said that bringing young Maroons hopefuls into camp will enable the current record-breaking Queensland players to pass on their legacy.
In 1992 Walters succeeded 'The King' Wally Lewis in the Queensland No.6 jersey and said the next generation of Queensland representatives will benefit most by spending time around the likes of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
"Players learn best around the great players more than around any sort of coach that is going to try and tip them up, with all due respect to coaches," said Walters, who has been an assistant at Melbourne, Newcastle and Brisbane as well as coaching Catalans in the UK Super League for two seasons.
"I know when I was coming through and even at the Broncos, just being around guys like Wally and Gene [Miles] it really did inspire you to become a better player and I feel that's the case now with the current group of players that we have.
"With 'Smithy', Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Matt Scott, you learn most from the great players and they're going to learn so much if we can get some more players into camp.
"Just being around these players is best for their development – outside of them actually playing in an Origin game – which hopefully one day they will get the opportunity to do."
As for Smith's recent statement that he would like to one day take up the mantle that Walters now holds, Queensland's latest coach is simply happy to have the Storm skipper's footballing nous to tap into.
"That's fine. The Melbourne Storm boys have obviously got a bit of an eye on the future now with things going on," said Walters.
"He's a very smart footballer and a great guy to have around. I'm just fortunate that he's part of our side rather than anything coming out of the south."