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Walters named coach: I can unite Broncos and return to finals next year

Kevin Walters insists he will unite the Broncos and restore the club’s winning culture after being appointed head coach for the next two seasons.

The club officially announced his signing on Wednesday and the five-time Broncos premiership winner said it was the realisation of "a dream" 20 years in the making.

The 52-year-old will relinquish his head coaching duties with the Maroons but will remain involved in the preparation for this year’s State of Origin series, as revealed by QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher on Tuesday.

The QRL will appoint a new coach in the coming days with Wayne Bennett the hot favourite.

The culture of the Broncos, who claimed their first wooden spoon this year, has been fractured and Bennett said Walters would drive a restoration of their culture because he understood what had made the club great.

Walters appointed Broncos coach

"That is my first objective, to get in and unite the club again," Walters told NRL.com.

"That applies to the players, the coaching staff, the administration staff, fans, corporates, members … everyone that plays their role in the Broncos success.

"I mean everyone because the Broncos has always been an all-in club, a whole of club, and that is what I want to return the club to be.

"With everyone working in the same direction it is amazing what results you can come up with."

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All roads lead to Brisbane

The direction Walters has travelled in with his coaching career ever since playing the last of his 241 first-grade games had a definite target. He has now hit the bullseye.

"From the day I hung my boots up at the Broncos my next objective was to be head coach of the Brisbane Broncos and I am very grateful for the opportunity,” he said.

"It has been a dream that is for sure, and it has happened 20 years later. We stuck to the task and have lived all around the world - from overseas in France [with Catalans] to down in Melbourne - gathering my skills for the opportunity to one day be the coach of the Broncos.

"My family, I can’t thank them enough for their support over the last 20 years. My wife Narelle and all the kids have been brilliant and it is great news for all of us."

Walters was overlooked when Anthony Seibold was appointed to replace Bennett at the end of 2018 but after the initial disappointment he went on a quest for self-improvement.

This time around he edged out Cowboys 2015 premiership winner Paul Green for the post.

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Making the dream a reality

His twin brother Kerrod, who won two titles at Brisbane alongside his brother, said Kevin had never given up on the dream.

"Kevvie was devastated when he missed out on the job last time but he accepted the decision," Kerrod said.

"He said to me 'next time I am in that position I will make sure I am a better person and a better coach'. That is the case now and shows a lot about his character.

From the day I hung my boots up at the Broncos my next objective was to be head coach of the Brisbane Broncos.

Kevin Walters

"He didn’t kick stones. He copped it on the chin and got on with it, and now he is a very happy boy. 

"I kept asking if he'd heard anything from the Broncos and he said 'no, no but I will let you know when I do', so when he called to say he'd got the job  I couldn't be happier for him."

The hard work now begins. Walters will no doubt make some roster tweaks at the Broncos but he is adamant he has the players at his disposal to revive the club’s winning ways.

Kevin Walters and Allan Langer during their premiership glory days of the 1990s.
Kevin Walters and Allan Langer during their premiership glory days of the 1990s. ©NRL Photos

Players need to lift

The likes of Anthony Milford, Corey Oates and Joe Ofahengaue are in need of a second wind in their careers and Walters has coached them at the Maroons and as an assistant to Bennett at Brisbane. He knows what makes them tick.

"It is very exciting and a great opportunity to get in and work with a lot of those players I have worked with, and some that I haven’t," he said.

"There is unique talent amongst the playing group at the Broncos and it is my job and the staff’s job to bring that talent to the fore every week in the game.

"It is up to the players as well to take responsibility for their performances but they can’t do it by themselves. We have got to do it together and be united, and we will be."

Finals the 2021 goal

Walters insists the Broncos can be the big movers of the 2021 season and play finals football at least.

"That is my expectation. When you think about the Broncos you think of a winning culture and that is what we will return the club to," he said.

Walters said he would have news about his coaching team in the near future as he turns his attention as a matter of priority to his staff and playing roster.

Wayne Bennett and Kevin Walters after the 2000 premiership win.
Wayne Bennett and Kevin Walters after the 2000 premiership win. ©NRL Photos

Leaving the Maroons

He is also ready to assist whoever the QRL appoints as coach for the 2020 Origin series, whether that be Bennett or Mal Meninga.

"Unfortunately one of the things I won’t be able to do this year is coach the Maroons in the Origin series and I respect that decision by the Queensland Rugby League board and the Brisbane Broncos board," he said.

"I understand the workload at the Broncos is my priority but I am still really happy to assist whoever the next coach of the Queensland Origin team is to make the transition into that role as smooth as possibly, and I will be there in any capacity that they need me to be.

"The Queensland Rugby League has two very senior coaches that have been there and done it at Origin level so that makes the decision of me not being able to coach easier, just knowing that we have some good men ready to go."

Craig Bellamy looking sharp as he collects the 2019 Dally M Coach of the Year.
Craig Bellamy looking sharp as he collects the 2019 Dally M Coach of the Year. ©NRL Photos

Bellamy looms large

In the background this week have been the media reports of the Broncos' quest to get Storm coach Craig Bellamy as a coaching director from 2022. Out of respect to his former Canberra teammate, Walters said he would let that play out but added he had a strong bond with Bellamy.

"We played together at the Raiders and he worked on the coaching staff when I was at the Broncos and captain of the club, and then I was fortunate to work with Craig in Melbourne when I was assistant coach for three years," he said.

"We have a great working relationship but out of respect for Craig and the Melbourne Storm he needs to focus on what is in front of them.

"They are a real chance for the premiership, so out of respect we need to leave that one alone."

Kerrod said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a tear or two of joy when Walters next spoke publicly of his appointment.

"That is me. I wear my heart on my sleeve," Kevin said.

"I am very passionate. I am all-in. I don’t see it as a job, what has been placed in front of me. I am deeply invested in the Broncos, and everyone attached to the Broncos, so I couldn’t be happier."