Good mate Allan Langer once joked that Kevin Walters should have changed his last name to Bradbury.
Because like the fortunate speed skater, Langer cheekily claimed Walters had fallen over the line as Queensland State of Origin coach.
He may not have been the first choice as Maroons mentor.
Some say he wasn’t even the second.
But after just one game in charge, the likeable Walters has created a bond with the all-conquering Maroons similar to long-term mentor Mal Meninga.
Queensland captain Cameron Smith said if the Maroons clinch a 10th series win in 11 years with a game two victory on Wednesday, they would have done it for Walters.
Smith even dedicated their gritty 6-4 game one win – Walters’ debut at the helm – to their new coach.
“No doubt. It’s one of the reasons why you play football, to play for your coach,” Smith said.
“If you’re not committed to your coach then it shows with your performances.
“I would like to think if you look back to game one that was a pretty exceptional performance by our team.
“We didn’t have much ball and defended the house down – that shows we are pretty keen to do a good job for Kev like we did for Mal.”
Walters was one of Queensland’s favourite sons, playing 20 Origins at pivot.
But the former playmaker was initially overlooked as Queensland coach when Meninga walked away from his record 10-year stint with nine series wins including eight straight.
The QRL first asked North Queensland’s Paul Green.
It is believed Wayne Bennett was next when Green made the agonising decision to decline.
But Smith said Walters showed why he should have been the first picked when they were about to board the bus for Origin I in Sydney.
“He gave quite an emotional talk to us about what it meant to him to be a Queenslander,” Smith said.
“He spoke about some things he wished he had done better (during his Origin career) and he didn’t want us to feel that way when they finished.
“He’s had a couple of those talks in both camps.
“I love Kev’s honesty, the way he is not ashamed to show his emotions in front of the players.
“I think that brings the best out of the players.”
Truth be told, Smith admits Walters hasn’t changed too much since Meninga’s days.
“But you’d be hard pressed to find a more passionate Queenslander,” Smith added.