The player Kevvie is banking on to bring back the good times
A new chapter for the Broncos begins on Monday when club legend Kevin Walters takes the reins as Brisbane coach.
In an exclusive interview, Walters opens up to chief league writer Peter Badel about his plans to make the Broncos great again.
Watch The State of Origin III Full & Mini REPLAY on Kayo with no ad-breaks during play and Fox League Commentary. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
You launch a new era for the Broncos on Monday. How will it feel walking back into the club you love as head coach of the Broncos?
It will be amazing. I'm excited about the start of a new era and I will be getting straight into things for everyone to be prepared for next season. We will turn things around. It's going to be a good season for Broncos fans.
What changes need to be made in a cultural sense?
Everyone says they will have a good pre-season, but I see my big job to unite everybody and bring the whole club back together. There was a disconnect at the Broncos. There was a disconnect between the players and the community. My big job is to bring it all back together and have everyone singing off the same page. I believe one of my big skills is the ability to get people working together as a team and bringing harmony. I will unite the Broncos as one.
A disconnect in what way?
It was everywhere. Across the whole club. I saw fractures. There was a disconnect between players, staff, the board and a disconnect with the Broncos' links to the Queensland people. That should not be the Broncos. I feel those links wavered last year for whatever reason, so we need to build a strong base. I want the players reconnecting with the community, fans, members and sponsors. We are bringing the real Broncos back.
Part of that disconnect was the constant sniping from Broncos club legends. What's your view of the Old Boys?
The Old Boys have always been part of the club. To be fair, the Old Boys had every right to be disappointed with what happened last year with the club and they voiced their opinion, which they are entitled to. But they will always be welcome on my watch and there will no problem with them. I will make sure they are part of the club's turnaround. They will support this team the way I know they can.
Cameron Smith is a free agent. Will you be making a play for him?
No, Cameron won't be here. He's a champion player but I don't know what he is doing with his future. I haven't had any talks with Cam.
How does it feel to inherit a Broncos club in possession of the wooden spoon?
It doesn't bother me. I have worked very hard over the last 20 years to coach at the Broncos. To now come in to coach them at the bottom, the only way is up for us and that's the way I see it. It doesn't bother me at all what happened last year. That is forgotten now. We have moved on and my challenge is to get them back to where they should be.
Is the finals a non-negotiable for the Broncos next year?
I'm not going to make any predictions around finals and premierships next season, but my goal is to get the Broncos playing in a way that everyone will enjoy. The expectation is the Broncos will make the finals and nothing changes in my regard. Naturally, I will be expecting the best every week from the players. 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.
In which particular areas must the side improve?
There's a number of areas but the big one for me is defence. The great teams defend well and defence is an area we are going to put a lot of time and effort into. The teams that win premierships invariably have the best defence, so we need to get better in that area. The players need to take responsibility for the amount of points we let in last year. I will also address a few things with our attack. I need a guy like Anthony Milford to be at the forefront of what we are doing next year. I need him to be firing.
Milford is off-contract next year and there is a view he should be moved on. How do you get him firing?
There's no doubt for me that Milford is one of our key players next season. I have worked with 'Milf' in the past and I am aware of just how talented he is and it's up to me and the coaching staff to get the best out of him. I honestly feel we haven't seen the best of him. It's up to me to provide the best environment for him to succeed and I'm confident I can do that for Milf.
He nearly won the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2015 grand final when you were an assistant coach at the Broncos. What's the key to getting the best out of Milford?
It's important as a coach you keep things simple for Milf. He is an instinct player. We saw Cody Walker tear apart teams for Souths this year and I believe Anthony can do that for the Broncos. Milford is down on confidence and down on where he should be for varying reasons. He needs to take some responsibility as well. But Milf is like the other Broncos players. When you start losing like you do, it's every man for himself. I will put some structure around Anthony and then let him play off the cuff. He sees things and does things as an elite player that many others can't do. I am certain Milf will prove his critics wrong.
Will Tom Dearden be your halfback?
The halves are crucial for any successful team and I need to settle on the right combination between Milf and Tom Dearden or Brodie Croft. I also have to identify who my fullback will be. We've got guys like Jamayne Isaako, Herbie Farnworth and Tesi Niu, so I'll be watching them in pre-season.
Is fullback an option for Milford?
No, Anthony will be five-eighth. He won't be playing fullback.
Gold Coast unveiled David Fifita in Titans colours on Friday. Are you disappointed he won't be at the Broncos?
Look, it's a huge loss. Dave is a wonderful young talent and I would have loved to have kept him at the Broncos, but we have to look forward and we have some promising young forwards coming through. Jordan Riki did some impressive things last season and I think he can step up. We will assemble a good forward pack without Dave. I am happy for Dave that he is comfortable with where he is at with the Titans and I wish him all the best.
You have appointed Terry Matterson and John Cartwright as your assistants. Why those two?
I chose John and Terry because they are people of great character. They have wonderful experience across all levels of the game. They both had great playing careers so the players respect the fact they have been there, done that and they have also succeeded as coaches. I played with 'Matto' at the Broncos and won premierships together and I have been on Kangaroo tours with 'Carty', so I'm confident they will bring some quality coaching to the club.
You used the Coach Whisperer, Bradley Stubbs, in Queensland Origin camp last year. Will he help you at the Broncos?
No I won't be using Bradley. He does work with Trent Robinson at the Roosters. I still talk to Bradley but I won't be using him in a professional capacity.
The jury is out on you as an NRL coach. What kind of coach will you be?
I don't doubt myself at all. I will be myself. I believe I am a person of strong character. I want to be a winning coach. The last 20 years have been about getting myself into a position to coach the Broncos and now that I am there, I feel a great sense of pride. I don't care what the critics think. I don't have doubts about my ability. It was disappointing to see the club fall apart like it did last year. It was hard to walk down the street and hear some people criticising the club. But all that matters now is what happens next and I feel a great responsibility and excitement to bring this club forward and march them up the ladder. But this is not a one-man job. Everyone involved in the club from the players to the staff, we need to get the club back on track working together. I can't do it all my own.
Do you lie awake at night dreaming of holding up the Telstra Premiership?
(Laughs). This club is about winning. My directive is to change the mindset of the Broncos and get the players back into a winning frame of mind. When we do that, the premierships will come again.
Originally published as The player Kevvie is banking on to bring back the good times