The future of Maroons coach Kevin Walters is set to be resolved in the next six weeks after he enacted a clause in his contract to ask for an extension.
QRL powerbrokers are determined to enter this year’s Holden State of Origin series with stability around the Queensland coaching position.
Walters, who is off contract at the end of this season, has a clause in his contract where he can ask for an extension in the third year.
QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher said after Friday’s AGM and board meeting that the 52-year-old had sought an extension and the board was close to an answer.
Hatcher is a Walters supporter and wants him to be retained. Ultimately that will be a board decision but the signs are promising for Walters.
"We clearly want stability and I think loyalty is a very important part of that,” Hatcher said.
"There is absolutely no doubt that we are going down the path of formalising the future, and there are some issues that have required further discussion, but by the end of February or early March we’ll have our position clear.
"We are very supportive of Kev and very aware that the public judge Origin by success on the field but we have a view that … contributions in other areas are important to us.
"Principally we’ve got to win Origin and we have got to support him in achieving that. He is contracted for another year but we will well and truly have our position clear and agreed in the next four to six weeks."
No Maroons coach has lost two Origin series in a row and continued in the role. Wally Lewis (1993-94) and Michael Hagan (2004-05) had just two-year stints.
Paul Vautin famously won the 1995 series but then lost the following two series before Wayne Bennett returned to coach Queensland in 1998.
Walters coached the Maroons to consecutive series wins in 2016 and 2017 before losing the last two series and has a win rate at Origin level of 50 per cent, which is the same as Bennett, who won five of the seven series he coached.
He had been at the helm during a great upheaval in the Maroons playing roster with Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston retiring at the end of the 2017 series, only to be followed by Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis.
Experienced forwards Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Matt Scott have also retired during Walters’s tenure.
QRL managing director Rob Moore told NRL.com last year that Walters should take “enormous credit” for the way he had nurtured the next crop of Maroons through the turbulence, a view endorsed by Hatcher.
"Prior to his appointment we had four of the world’s best players who had this phenomenal period of success," Hatcher said.
"When Kev came in he lost most of those people and had to refresh the roster."
Hatcher pointed to Smith’s decision to retire on the cusp of the 2018 series as a massive loss in a 2-1 series loss that there was "nothing in".
"The next series we won the first game and had an aberration in Perth. We had what I would call a disaster where we could have had an athlete [Moses Mybe] die.
"We had medical help on hand who saved him from a far worse fate," Hatcher said, while pointing out the obvious impact that scenario had on the team.
Hatcher said the Maroons also had "a shocking period" of injuries last year - namely to Kalyn Ponga, Michael Morgan, Matt Gillett, Jai Arrow and Joe Ofahengaue.
We clearly want stability and I think loyalty is a very important part of that.Bruce Hatcher
"Not making any excuses, but we still went within five minutes in the last game of winning the series,” Hatcher said.
"To me we have performed admirably in those two [losing] series apart from the aberration of Perth where they just got away from us early.
"In my view [Walters] has shown great leadership talent in what he has done in that transition period."
Hatcher was reappointed for another three years as QRL chairman at the AGM while the QRL board also elevated 2000 Olympics water polo gold medal winner Naomi McCarthy to the board as an independent director, replacing the retiring Bruce Prescott.