‘KEVVIE IS THE MAN’

COMMENT by Steve Ricketts. Former Chief Rugby League writer, The Courier-Mail.

When Wayne Bennett left the Broncos at the end of the 2008 season, my choice as his replacement was Terry Matterson.

The Broncos opted for former Canberra Raiders’ premiership halfback, Ivan Henjak, and we all know how that finished, and I don’t mean any disrespect to Ivan, who was a passionate, dedicated coach.

Ivan could give a half time spray which would make Wallabies’ coach, Michael Cheika blush.

My choice now, when Bennett leaves, is Kevin Walters.

A few years back I wouldn’t have backed ‘Kevvie’, because I thought there was too much of the clown left in him to win the respect of players, over the long term.

But he has done the hard yards; he has been patient, and has proved himself with the elite – the Queensland State of Origin squad.

He is the perfect fit for the Broncos, given he played in the club’s first five first grade premiership wins, captaining Brisbane against the Roosters in the 2000 Grand final.

He is a winner; he is a south east Queensland local; he is a good media man and will attract sponsors. His time as an assistant to Craig Bellamy at Melbourne Storm, no doubt has made him a more rounded individual.

When Bennett put the broom through the coaching staff at the Broncos at the end of the 2005 season, Walters was devastated when he was shown the door, along with Glenn Lazarus and Gary Belcher.

When I interviewed Walters for the book, ‘Bennett’s Broncos’ in 2013, he told me he was in a lot of (emotional) pain for quite some time.

“I loved the club and the organisation,” he said. “There were so many good memories there. At the time….it was probably the lowest point of my rugby league career. Looking back now, it was probably a good thing, getting out of the place.

“It certainly broadened my horizons, and my coaching career has been better for it.”

It’s time to bring Kevvie back, as the head man.

Footnote: The biggest sprays I remember from coaches, in my limited playing career, came from Col O’Gorman (Brisbane Brothers’ third grade, 1976) and Graham Lowe (Norths’ Brisbane first grade, 1979). Some of today’s pampered footballers would require smelling salts after O’Gorman or Lowe finished with them.

SALFORD STRUGGLE

When I first went to England in 1977-78, the Salford Red Devils were one of the glamor sides of rugby, either code.

In that era, they boasted the likes of dual internationals, Keith Fielding, Mick Coulman, David Watkins and Maurice Richards as well classy league internationals, Ken Gill, Colin Dixon (a product of Cardiff Rugby), Chris Hesketh and Paul Charlton.

They were a pleasure to watch, and I particularly enjoyed the scrum base work of Gill and Watkins.

Salford have stayed in Super League for another season, but I wonder what the future holds. Their attendance figures are lamentably low, and gone are the big names.

The club recently locked up former Manly and Roosters’ halfback, Jackson Hastings, whose father, Kevin ‘Horrie’ Hastings, a Roosters’ legend, had a stint in England – with Barrow.

Here’s hoping Jackson Hastings’ strong personality can lead to good things, on and off the field, for the Red Devils.

Jackson’s former club, Manly-Warringah is a basket case as well, and some of their crowds in 2018, were down there with Salford.

It is imperative Manly get back to being the club we all hate, not pity.

The northern beaches needs a strong, elite rugby league presence, given there are two union clubs – Manly and Warringah.

Photo: This is the sort of passion Kevin Walters can bring to Broncos’ supporters.

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