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Loyalty and stability: Maroons extend Walters deal into 2021

Kevin Walters has signed a one-year extension as Maroons head coach with the QRL placing a premium on loyalty and stability in announcing the appointment.  

The new deal extends Walters tenure to the end of the 2021 State of Origin series and brings to an end speculation about the 52-year-old’s future.

Walters said he was "very grateful" for the one-year extension.

"I believe that the Maroons are in a position of strength and I am excited about the future of our Origin team," he said.

"While I am pleased to get the contract talks finalised for next year, my focus is on the 2020 series in November."

The Maroons have lost the last two series under Walters after he won his initial two campaigns at the helm in 2016 and 2017.

The QRL’s decision to extend Walters is based on several factors. He has enormous respect from the players as a coach and for what he achieved as a Maroons player in 20 Origin games.

There is a view that, like Mal Meninga before him, he "gets" what Origin stands for when it comes to Queensland.

"He understands Origin and what makes the players tick," QRL managing director Rob Moore said. 

Kevin Walters is swamped during Origin I in 1998 after scoring a try in the seventh minute.
Kevin Walters is swamped during Origin I in 1998 after scoring a try in the seventh minute. ©NRL Photos

"Loyalty and respect have been cornerstones of the Maroons’ success, and the opportunity to extend Kevvie’s time with our Origin and representative program is certainly in line with these values."

In the past no Maroons coach has survived two consecutive losing series with Wally Lewis (1993 and 1994), Paul Vautin (1996 and 1997) and Michael Hagan (2004 and 2005) evidence of the fact.

QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher told earlier this year that "stability and loyalty" would be paramount in considering Walters's request for an extension.

Hatcher also made the point that Walters had done well to hold the Maroons together during a period of great change as he transitioned the team from an era dominated by recently retired greats Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.

That has been born out in a remarkable statistic which shows that Walters has blooded 21 debutants in every position on the field during his four years in charge of the Maroons.

Kalyn Ponga (fullback), Corey Oates and Valentine Holmes (wing) and the duo of Justin O’Neill and Moses Mbye (centre) were all given debuts in the outside backs.

Anthony Milford, Cameron Munster, Corey Norman and Ben Hunt earned jerseys in the halves, with Hunt also playing hooker.

In the middle forward department Dylan Napa, Jarrod Wallace, Tim Glasby, Jai Arrow, Joe Ofahengaue and Christian Welch all made their debuts under Walters.

Edge forwards Gavin Cooper, Coen Hess, Felise Kaufusi, David Fifita and Ethan Lowe have also been thrust into the Origin arena while Andrew McCullough played three games at hooker in the aftermath of Smith’s retirement in 2018.

The majority of those players are set to be front and centre of the Maroons’ future campaigns and Hatcher and the QRL board believed it was paramount that Walters be given the opportunity to further develop a group of players who believe in him as much as he does in them.

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