Kevin Walters expects spark and voice from his new halves to ignite Brisbane as the Broncos coach reverted to his Origin mind trick of refusing to speak about the opposition before Friday’s derby clash with the Gold Coast.
Walters raised eyebrows in 2019 when as Queensland Origin coach he followed advice from self-proclaimed “coach whisperer” Bradley Charles Stubbs and banned Maroons players from talking about NSW.
The Maroons constantly referred to the Blues as the opposition as Walters tried to keep the focus solely on their own performances.
The besieged Brisbane mentor was up to his old tricks again on Thursday as he did his best to ignore the hyped rematch with former Broncos forward David Fifita when they host the Titans at Suncorp Stadium.
"We can’t just focus on one guy they have 17 players who are playing good football and we need to concern ourselves with all 17 players and more importantly concern ourselves with our game and what we can do," was the best Walters would offer when asked specifically about Fifita.
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Instead, Walters was keen to discuss his fourth halves combination in eight weeks, Anthony Milford and Tyson Gamble, and how their skill set would bring out the best in the Broncos.
"Just good communication and organisation for the team," Walters said of his expectation on Gamble in his fourth NRL game.
"That’s what we’ve been lacking the last couple of weeks. He is a bigger body as well defensively on that right side.
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"He is really excited about his first real opportunity as a starter and it will be great to see him get his opportunity.
"That [vocal halfback] is what we’ve been lacking the last couple of weeks is that authority around our forwards.
"I believe our forwards have been doing a great job with their ruck play and defensive work we just haven’t capitalised enough on the play the ball speed they’ve been providing our outside backs and he gives good direction as well which is what we’re looking for."
Milford is back after just two weeks in the Intrust Super Cup despite initial suggestions by Walters he would leave the former Origin star at state level for four or five weeks to rediscover his form and confidence.
The 26-year-old marquee man had a busy game for Souths Logan in the win over Mackay Cutters last week and has been rushed straight back into the starting side after Walters dumped Brodie Croft and Cowboys-bound halves partner Tom Dearden.
"I know Milf’s capabilities and certainly he showed enough last week to suggest the spark is back in him," Walters said.
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"He was heavily involved in the game and we need him heavily involved tomorrow night that is why he is back in the side."
It was 20 years ago when Broncos coach Wayne Bennett created headlines by banishing Justin Hodges to the state league for the season as punishment for signing with the Sydney Roosters for the next year.
Walters, who defended Brisbane’s decision not to offer a new deal to Dearden, denied the young half would face a similar fate to Hodges even though any NRL action with the Broncos this year would only enhance his development as a half for the Cowboys next year.
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"That’s not the type of person I am," Walters said.
"If Tom is playing the type of football that warrants him to be in first grade he will be in first grade.
"The Cowboys' offer, as we understood, was quite significant and was one we couldn’t match."
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