Win or lose, Walters must walk out on Maroons
No matter the outcome on Wednesday night, Kevin Walters' position with the Maroons is safe. But rugby league waits for no one and the Queensland coach must consider walking away for his own sake, writes PETER BADEL.
The clock is ticking. It is time for Kevvie to seriously weigh-up his tenure with Queensland Rugby League, and whether soldiering on for another 12 months with the Maroons could scupper his long-held dream of becoming an NRL head coach.
It would be a kneejerk mentality to suggest a Maroons defeat would trigger the dismissal of Walters, for he is contracted to the QRL until the end of 2020 and has done a fine rebuilding job in the post-Mal Meninga era.
But timing is everything in rugby league.
The NRL industry is littered with sliding doors moments. Making the right call at the right time can be the difference between becoming an NRL head coach or sitting at Centrelink wondering when the next plum gig will arrive.
For that reason, win or lose, Walters must consider walking away from his beloved Maroons if he is fair dinkum about cutting his teeth as a coach in the toughest environment of all - the National Rugby League.
After all, the planets are aligning for Walters to stamp his mark at the Gold Coast Titans.
On Monday, Walters' Origin predecessor Meninga, now the Titans' culture-and-performance boss, will table his report to the Gold Coast board with detailed recommendations on how best to take the club forward.
Titans bosses are expected to pull the trigger on besieged coach Garth Brennan in the coming weeks, which would re-open the door for Walters to chase the Gold Coast position he secretly coveted two years ago.
Well-placed sources have told this column that if Walters was to apply for any vacant Titans post in the future, he would be immediately short-listed.
Given that sentiment, Walters has to go for the jugular.
He must heed lessons from 2017, when the Maroons mentor was keen on the Titans job following the sacking of Neil Henry, only to hold fire, with one eye - and indeed his heart - fixed on one day returning to the Broncos.
Walters was under the impression if he sidestepped the Titans gig, he would arrive at his coaching utopia - succeeding Wayne Bennett at the Broncos.
In the end, Walters was leapfrogged by two rookies, Brennan clinching the Titans post and Anthony Seibold, ironically his Maroons assistant in 2017, beating him to the Broncos post.
Walters has now seen four bona fide NRL coaching opportunities slip away in the past six years.
The first setback came in 2013, when he made the grand final for the Wests Tigers coaching job, only to lose out to Mick Potter.
The following year, Walters applied for the North Queensland post and made the final four. The Cowboys opted for Paul Green, a decision vindicated by the club's historic premiership win in 2015.
Factor in the narratives surrounding his near-misses with the Titans and Broncos, and you get the feeling time is running out for Walters to parlay his successes with the Queensland side into full-time NRL coaching.
History shows very few coaches get their big break after the age of 50.
Roosters mentor Trent Robinson, now one of the NRL's leading coaches, was 35 when he took charge at the Bondi glamour club.
Green was 41 when he started at the Cowboys. Brennan made his Titans debut at 46. Seibold replaced Michael Maguire at South Sydney last year at age 43.
Walters celebrates his 52nd birthday this October and has matured immensely after four campaigns with the Maroons, winning his first two series and blooding a staggering 20 debutants.
At Origin level, Kevvie has nothing left to prove.
In the NRL, resurrecting the Titans and thumbing his nose at Broncos bosses who didn't want him could be the glorious final coaching chapter for Walters.