‘Don’t ask that question ever again’: Kevvie’s blunt warning
Kevin Walters has hit out at suggestions he is not cut out for NRL coaching and has turned up the heat on Broncos stars, saying: "I won't tolerate us missing the finals."
Fresh from being announced as Brisbane's new coach, Walters opened up to News Corp about his blueprint to restore pride to a Broncos club at rock bottom following their wooden-spoon finish.
The 241-game club legend addressed claims the Broncos' culture is broken and outlined his plan to fix the worst defensive team in Brisbane's 32-year history.
"I believe I am good at uniting people and I will unify the Broncos again to be a powerful club," Walters said.
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The Broncos will start the 2021 season as reigning wooden spooners. Never before in their history have the Broncos faced the embarrassment of starting a campaign under pressure to offload the wooden spoon.
To many, resurrecting the Broncos as a finals force is viewed as a two-to-three year project, but Walters says making the playoffs next season is a non-negotiable expectation.
The usually affable Walters bristles when he is asked if Brisbane can make the top eight in 2021.
"Can we make the finals? Of course. Please don't ask that question ever again," Walters said.
"This is the Broncos. I won't tolerate us missing the finals.
"From the day the club was set-up by the four directors, they wanted their team and their players to be proud of the team that the Broncos are and that is my objective, to restore pride back in that Broncos jersey, back at that club.
"There is a lot of talent in this squad and that is not the issue for the Broncos. This club will always produce good players, but the real problem is the lack of unity. I will be fixing that."
Walters is aware of some negative perceptions about his coaching ability. In the past, he was annoyed by suggestions he was a happy-go-lucky prankster who lacks the hard edge to be an NRL coach.
Walters has been criticised for his 37 per cent win ratio at Super League club Catalans in 2009-10. But his overall coaching record is successful. He took Catalans to the 2009 grand-final qualifier, won a minor premiership with the Ipswich Jets the previous year, helped the Broncos to the 2015 grand final and won two Origin crowns as Queensland coach.
During the week, leading NRL analyst Phil Gould said asking Walters to save the Broncos was a "big ask".
"I don't care one bit what critics think of me and my coaching," he said.
"I am a great believer in myself as a coach. I have been down some dry gullies and that's OK, that happens. But all the experiences I've had, from coaching in France, to Melbourne, to the Ipswich Jets, to the Queensland Origin team, it's shaped the coach I am right now. I have matured a lot. I have a lot of confidence about what I can bring to the Broncos.
"I've won six premierships as a player and I've won Origin titles as a coach, but I've never done it on my own. We need everyone rocking and rolling at the Broncos and it's up to me as coach to bring it all together."
If anyone understands the DNA of the Broncos, it's Walters. When he sat down for his job interview last Thursday week, he delivered some home truths to the Broncos board.
"In my job interview, I told the board that it's time to unify the club," he said.
"I haven't seen Brisbane's soul this year.
"Everyone had to work together. That was my main message. I see a lot of fractures between staff, players, the admin staff, the board. That should not be the Broncos.
"Rebuild is a trashy word. We have good staff, good players in there, the roster needs some adjusting but that's not the major problem.
"The major problem is unity within the club and everyone doing their job.
"The Broncos means giving your all every week. I will reinforce to the players it is not just themselves they are playing for. They are playing for all the Broncos fans who spend their money watching us. We will not be selfish. The Broncos were never set up to be that way. They are Queensland's club. Queenslanders own them. That's what we need to get back to.
"I can't do it all by myself. It's too big for one person. Nobody in the game can build a club on their own. But if we do it together, we become very powerful."
The Broncos this year conceded a whopping 624 points at an average of 31 per game. No other Brisbane team in history has been so mentally and technically fragile without the ball.
As a player, Walters was known for his superb ability to get Brisbane's attack humming, but now, as coach, he will bring some mongrel to their defence.
"I'll be fixing our defence," he said.
"That's a key for me. All the great teams that win premierships have great defensive systems.
"Defence is attitude. Yes, you need structures, but ultimately it's about attitude and that attitude must come from the staff and the players.
"The year we made the 2015 grand final, our defence, particularly on our tryline, was first class. We had that mateship.
"The players need to take some responsibility for the amount of points they have let in, no doubt about that."
Walters is tired of hearing about Brisbane's glory days. A whole generation of players have passed since the Broncos won their most recent premiership in 2006. He will challenge the current group to build a new dynasty of premiership winners.
"The history of the Broncos, and where we have been, is naturally important," he said.
"But what's more important is that this squad makes their own history.
"It's been 14 years since we've won a comp. The legends like Allan Langer, Darren Lockyer, Glenn Lazarus and Shane Webcke are gone. This team needs to write their own history with a new group of legends.
"The most important thing is for this playing group to look at what legacy they want to leave in a Broncos jumper. As a player, you want to win premierships.
"We can't win every week _ and we won't. But it's how you win and lose. That defines what a football club is.
"It's time for these Broncos players to write their own piece of history."
Originally published as 'Don't ask that question ever again': Kevvie's blunt warning