Kevin Walters’ language could come back to haunt him.
Kevin Walters’ language could come back to haunt him.

Kent: Walters’ words lose Maroons’ best weapon

And with these words, "We've got David Fifita coming off the bench! Whoah, come on!" Kevvie Walters officially got carried off to the funny farm.

Or did he?

It is a particular kind of crazy Walters is pushing at the moment.

There hasn't been an innovation like this since athletes began wear wrist bands filled with "hologram technology" promised to resonate with the body's natural energy and, suddenly, highly priced power bands began fleecing pockets across the world.

But is it really that crazy?

 

Kevin Walters is watching his words this year. Image: Adam Head
Kevin Walters is watching his words this year. Image: Adam Head

 

Take out the novelty of refusing to call the opposition by name

Walters went some way to establish that and, the more he talked, the more obvious it became the significant change for the Queensland coach is he has tightened up his language. Could has become would. Can has become will.

There is no place for hope or maybe.

Several times yesterday Walters caught himself in his strange new world.

"This is quite unique having game one here at Suncorp so we need to …" he said, stopping because he caught himself, "and we will, play well in front of our home crowd."

 

DCE let slip the name of those-who-must-not-be-named … Image: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
DCE let slip the name of those-who-must-not-be-named … Image: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

 

An opening Origin game in Brisbane is hardly unique. There have been 21 opening games in Brisbane. But Walters quickly caught his language, correcting the hopeful "we need to" to the concrete "we will".

He dropped his Fifita ripper when asked about the Maroons bench, saying, "We've got some excellent players to come on and relieve those men when they are … if, and when they get fatigued. We've got David Fifita …"

"If" they get fatigued, instead of when they "are".

He said "DCE will deliver", right before he was asked if Daly Cherry-Evans was ready to own Origin.

"Certainly he is going to need support," he stopped, " … he will get some support from 16 other guys out there."

 

Queensland thrive on their state rivalry. Image: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
Queensland thrive on their state rivalry. Image: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

 

Kalyn Ponga's brilliance was mentioned.

"Kalyn has just got to be Kalyn Ponga, and if he can …" he stopped, "and I know he will bring that …"

Asked, given his new energy, whether he could guarantee victory Walkers baulked slightly, adjusted, then carried on, "The players will guarantee that …"

The shift in Walters is obvious to anybody who knows the boy who grew up in Ipswich. Humility is a much admired trait among his blue-collar neighbourhood. Modifiers are often the key to humility, a shy from arrogance.

The new language shows certainty and strength.

It is the difference between Martin Luther King's "I have a dream …" speech, built on strong verbs and active voice, and Kevin Rudd's rambling "Sorry" speech, overwritten and passively delivered and easily forgettable.

Strong verbs, concrete nouns.

 

Has Walters cost himself the most valuable motivational tool? Image: Adam Head
Has Walters cost himself the most valuable motivational tool? Image: Adam Head

 

If there is a threat to Walters' new vision it is significant and yet to be revealed. It is the threat to Queensland's identity.

In recognition of Walters' bold sentences the coach was asked about the famous underdog tag.

Through nearly 40 years of Origin Queensland always fought hard to be the underdog. Even when they trotted out the greatest spine ever assembled Queensland took great insult at any suggestion they were not legitimate underdogs.

The Maroon as underdogs, winning once more against the arrogant Blues, has almost become cliche. It is how Queenslanders see themselves, their team a reflection of that.

Such a mentality was at odds with Queensland's sense of self.

So asked how it sits with his new-found optimism Walters appeared cornered.

"Not sure about the underdog tag," he said, somewhat awkwardly, "we know where we sit."

And that is significant.

Some years back I asked Mal Meninga why Queensland worked so hard to find insult from NSW, wondering how an Origin team could possibly need more motivation.

Wasn't the game, and all that was at stake, enough?

Meninga called them "triggers". The insults, perceived or real, were given voice in camp.

Once they were verbalised in camp they could used when times got tough in the game, when the Maroons were fighting that internal battle between effort and rest and a simple word from a teammate, the trigger, was enough to get them to rise again.

It finally made sense.

By refusing to acknowledge NSW as part of the game throughout their preparation this time around, though, the Maroons have removed what has for so long been one of their great weapons.