‘Magic was lost’: Why Kevvie finally won over the Broncos
Brisbane chairman Karl Morris has revealed why Kevin Walters won the Broncos job, claiming the club legend will deliver a cultural reality check to misfiring players who have become "selfish" at Red Hill.
Speaking for the first time about one of the most important high-level decisions in Broncos history, Morris said Brisbane's board opted for Walters over Paul Green because of his ability to reconnect the club with its core values.
And Morris was equally frank in his appraisal of Broncos players, questioning whether the full-time squad had a team-first mentality in Brisbane's historic slide to the wooden spoon under former coach Anthony Seibold.
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Walters faces the daunting task of hauling Brisbane out of the premiership cellar next season.
On paper at least, there was an argument Green had the edge in job interviews, having taken the Cowboys to a premiership and two grand finals, while Walters has no head-coaching experience at NRL level.
But Morris said Walters' gravitas as a 241-game club legend, having played in five of Brisbane's six premierships, will give players an insight into the standards that made the Broncos the NRL's one-time glamour club.
"We went with Kevin because he represents the heart and soul of the Broncos and what we aspire to achieve," Morris said.
"The magic of the Broncos has been lost.
"Coming last, to be at the bottom of the table is not a good look for this great club and Kevin Walters is a proven winner.
"Times have changed from 2006 when the Broncos last won the premiership. It should always be a privilege to play for the Broncos. There is no question we have the resources to be winning premierships.
"I believe Kevin will bring a new edge on what it means to play for the Broncos.
"He is what rugby league is all about. You will see the winning attitude that Kevin brings to the Broncos.
"It's time that people started to value the Broncos again."
Under Walters' predecessor Seibold, who cracked under the pressure of coaching the NRL's richest club, Brisbane's playing group lost the plot.
The biggest indictment on the club's culture came in July, when Seibold, at the behest of leading Broncos players, agreed to scrap the captain's run, a pre-game staple session for all 16 clubs in the NRL.
Incredibly, the captain's run - held 24 hours before a match - became optional at Red Hill.
While some Broncos players sat in the nearby cafe eating bacon-and-egg rolls and drinking lattes, other teammates were out on the field actually training.
Can you imagine Storm super coach Craig Bellamy accepting such divisive standards from his playing group?
It wouldn't happen at powerhouses like Melbourne and the Roosters. The Broncos went on to finish last, having leaked a woeful 624 points - the worst defensive record in the club's 32-year history.
Seibold may have lost the dressing-room, but Morris said Brisbane's players need a good look in the mirror. The reflection of Walters, a premiership, State of Origin and Australian World Cup winner, will be staring at them.
"Kevin will be taking the selfishness out of the playing group," Morris said.
"His focus will be on the team collective, rather than individuals worrying about personal performances.
"If you are a player and your manager is in your ear saying keep your stats up, because that's how you are valued ... well at the Broncos (next year), I couldn't care less about a player's personal stats.
"I was really impressed with (prop) Payne Haas' comments at our recent presentation day. He said he only cares about winning for the team and that's the attitude we want.
"Under Kevin, we don't want selfish players at the Broncos."
It is hard to miss the irony in Walters' belated coronation as Broncos coach.
Two years ago, Walters fronted a Broncos committee for a job interview, only to lose out to Seibold. This time, the same Broncos bosses are backing him.
It's reasonable to ask what has changed about Walters' suitability in such a short space of time.
"Kevin was a lot more professional this time around (in his job interview)," Morris said.
"He gave a presentation that contained a lot more thought around strategy and what the structure of the club would like look.
"I must say Paul Green was very impressive as well, but Kevin's presentation was much more detailed compared to a few years ago."
Morris is adamant the Broncos can hit back as a finals force next season and says Brisbane's board have no concerns about Walters' inexperience as an NRL head coach.
"I don't think it's a risk," he said.
"Kevin will be surrounded by good people. John Cartwright (former Titans head coach) will be coming on board and there will be other assistant coaches around him (including Terry Matterson and possibly Bellamy as coaching director in 2022).
"There is no doubt that Kevvie's experience previously as an assistant at several clubs and having coached the Queensland Origin team will put him in good stead.
"It is certainly a new challenge for Kevvie. It's week to week and Kevin will have to make a lot of important decisions and there will be scrutiny, but he will be well supported.
"Kevin will have the instant respect of the players because of his status as a Broncos legend. No-one can sit back and say to Kevvie, 'You don't know what you are talking about'.
"Kevin knows what the Broncos stand for and he has always been a team person. He will bring that to our club.
"I expect us to be back in finals contention next year. That's our aim every year. It won't be easy to turn things around quickly but Kevin will get the best out of the players that he has got.
"Kevin's attitude is, 'Get on the bus or you won't be on it'. He will be very tough on individual performances."