A second-choice Kevin Walters was quick to turn the other cheek to ensure he, finally, became Mal Meninga’s successor as Queensland coach.
Initially snubbed in favour of Cowboys NRL-winning mentor Paul Green, Walters displayed both humility and immense self-belief on Monday after being granted a three-year contract to guide the Maroons.
The former Queensland five-eighth revealed he had phoned the Queensland Rugby League immediately after Green’s rejection of their offer.
A week later Walters signed the deal and is now backing himself to continue Meninga’s success in guiding the most dominant team in State of Origin history.
The 48-year-old, who’ll stand down as Brisbane Broncos assistant coach, said there was no hard feelings after being originally denied the job of his dreams.
“No not at all,” said Walters. “It was a process the QRL went through.
“What is important is that the QRL got it right in the end. They got the right man for the job, I have no doubt about that.
“There were just a few little turns and roundabouts but we got there in the end.”
The QRL was heavily criticised when Green knocked back the job on December 17 after Meninga, who guided the Maroons to nine series victories from 10, took the national post at the start of the month.
QRL chairman Peter Betros was unapologetic on Monday and partly blamed the media speculation for making their job harder.
Walters – seen as the natural successor after playing 20 games in the 1990s, having a long apprenticeship as an NRL assistant coach and serving as Meninga’s right-hand man – never hesitated in making the bridge-mending phone call.
“It wasn’t awkward at all,” he said. “I’m very happy I did make that phone call.
“It’s worked out well for (the QRL) and myself.
“There was a lot going on around the place and to be honest I was just ready to make that phone call to say `where are we going with this?’.
“Peter and I sat down and we had a good conversation from there.”
It ensured his days as a reliable and wise-cracking lieutenant to the likes of Meninga, Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy, and a number of failed head coaching applications, has ended.
A 12-year-old fan in the crowd at Lang Park when the Maroons won the first Origin match 20-10 in 1980, Walters described the Queensland post as the pinnacle.
“I fulfilled my dreams as a player and now I am fortunate enough to fulfil my dream as a coach,” he said.
“Origin, when it comes around, it just engulfs everyone. Everyone wants to be involved and a part of it and to be the head coach of this great team, this great organisation, it’s a very prestigious position.”
Walters admitted he faced a major challenge to keep a stranglehold over NSW but said there only needed to be few “subtle” changes to the structure Meninga has built.
He played down concerns over the ageing nucleus of the Maroons side – especially key playmakers Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk – but did acknowledge the disadvantage of two games in Sydney in 2016.
KEVIN WALTERS CAREER RECORD
Club games: 287 (Canberra 1987-1989) (Brisbane 1990-2001)
Premierships: 6 (1989, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000)
State of Origin games: 20 (1989-1999)
Toowoomba Clydesdales head coach (2001-2003)
Queensland State of Origin assistant (2006-2008, 2014-2015)
Brisbane Broncos assistant (2003-2005, 2015)
Ipswich Jets head coach (2007-2008)
Catalans Dragons head coach (2009-2010)
Melbourne Storm assistant (2011-2013)
Newcastle Knights assistant (2014)