Win or lose, Maroons will stick with Kevvie
Kevin Walters has declared he is extending his tenure as Queensland Origin coach as he spoke for the first time about his decision to abort an NRL breakthrough at the Titans.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Walters will Wednesday meet with Queensland Rugby League boss Rob Moore to begin talks on a $300,000 upgrade - regardless of whether the Maroons suffer a third consecutive series defeat this season.
Despite having lost the past two series, Walters has impressed Queensland hierarchy by blooding a staggering 21 debutants in 12 games and that will see the Broncos legend retained for at least a sixth campaign in 2021.
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QRL chiefs feared Walters could have been lost to the Maroons this year after he was strongly linked with the Titans and widely considered the raging favourite for a Gold Coast job that ultimately went to Justin Holbrook.
Walters has consistently stayed silent on the Titans rumours, but the 52-year-old told The Courier-Mail he never applied for the Gold Coast position because he can sense a fresh dynasty looming with the Maroons.
"I love coaching this team and I'll be meeting with the QRL (Wednesday) to begin talks," said Walters, whose current contract expires this year.
"I want to coach on with Queensland - 100 per cent.
"My main focus is this year's series but I'm definitely going on next year.
"To be honest, I never gave the Titans job a thought (last year following the sacking of Garth Brennan).
"I know people thought I would be interested, but I just felt the time wasn't right to go for the Titans job.
"In my gut, coaching the Titans didn't feel right.
"I know they are a Queensland club, so the link was there, and I have nothing against the Titans.
"It was more my passion for this Queensland team and the players I have developed in our system. We were 30 seconds away from victory last year and that's why I'm back again this year.
"This Queensland team ... I need them and they need me."
The new deal, which the QRL expect to formalise this month, will enshrine Walters among the longest-serving coaches in State of Origin history.
His predecessor Mal Meninga holds the record with nine wins from 10 Origin campaigns, with Walters on track to join Wayne Bennett, who amassed seven campaigns in three incarnations as Queensland coach.
The Maroons will start this year's series as outsiders, but Walters believes Queensland's crop of stars headlined by Kalyn Ponga, Valentine Holmes, Cameron Munster and David Fifita can restore northern supremacy.
Intriguingly, Walters has not given up eventually coaching in the NRL, despite the agony of Anthony Seibold beating him to the coveted Broncos job 18 months ago.
"I am a better coach now than I have ever been," Walters said.
"I just know I am a better coach. It's important you grow as a coach and I feel I have in the past three or four years.
"I'm a different coach to when I started out with Queensland and that's very exciting.
"When the right opportunity comes along in the NRL, I will go for it, but right now that time isn't right.
"For me to leave this job, there has to be a better opportunity and I honestly don't see it at the moment anywhere else.
"That's why this year's series excites me. I want to put us back into the winning zone and that will happen this year.
"We are building towards something special and I want to be here for it."