Walters’ warning: ‘We need to get better’
QUEENSLAND coach Kevin Walters succinctly summed up the singular ingredient that clinched victory in Origin I for his braveheart Maroons.
"The belief got us home," Walters said.
The Maroons' nailbiting 18-14 defeat of NSW wasn't just a win for his side, it was vindication for Walters following his stunning day-one press conference last week when he declared "this is war" and "we will win".
Walters has copped some criticism for employing the use of a mind coach, Bradley Charles Stubbs, prompting the Maroons coach to insist he "hadn't lost the plot" on the eve of the series opener.
Belief was at the heartbeat of Queensland's heroics at Suncorp Stadium, but Walters isn't satisfied yet, adamant his new generation of Maroons are only scratching the surface of their talent.
"Any win at Origin level is pleasing," he said.
"I got a lot of satisfaction out of game three last year and now we are out of the blocks.
"I am really stoked with the win, but the team has already spoken about this - we need to get better.
"There's not really relief. I don't feel we played our best for 80 minutes, in the first half we didn't capitalise on the opportunities, but we'll take the win and look to improve for Game Two."
Asked if Stubbs' 'Science of Belief' had helped the Maroons, Walters said: "His part-involvement has been great, but we haven't achieved anything yet.
"I haven't read what's been said about him or me. I don't see myself as a person as anything but someone who loves rugby league.
"If that makes me a loony, there's a lot of loonies in Queensland."
Walters lauded the performance of Gagai, who yet again stepped up in the Origin arena, with his two-try haul evoking images of his hat-trick in 2016.
"Dane is an Origin player," he said.
"Every game he plays, he is one of the top two or three players.
"That intercept try he scored in the second half very few people could have scored."
While the Blues scored the first points and led 8-0 at half-time, even their coach, Brad Fittler, never felt totally comfortable.
Fittler not only lamented his side's lack of defensive cohesion, but the class of Queensland's playmaking trinity Kalyn Ponga, Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster.
"We dodged a couple of bullets in the first half, with (Dylan) Napa and Corey Oates almost scoring … we weren't infallible," Fittler said.
"We never quite got our edges working well in defence.
"Queensland nailed the first 15 minutes in the second half. There was a bit of panic there from us and I didn't see that last year.
"They (Queensland) were good. They played with a lot of energy. Guys like Munster, Ponga and Cherry-Evans started skipping across and got us nervous."