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How junior footy and family shaped my career

Racing between telegraph poles; trying to tackle that little bloke with blond hair; and talking footy on family roast night ...

Why do I love rugby league?

It's a good question and one I'm proud to answer.

I love the game because it challenges you in so many ways; that's the first thing.

I just really enjoy the team environment and I guess I'm not so much the individual person.

I remember as a young boy playing with my junior club in Ipswich and having so much fun at training and on game day.

From an early age, I always found playing rugby league exciting and challenging.

I tried my hand at all the team sports growing up – cricket, baseball and rugby league. I even had a go at swimming, but I found myself at the bottom, not the top, most of the time.

Coming from a family of five boys prepares you for team sport in so many ways because you won't go anywhere unless you fit in with everyone else.

I reckon that's part of the reason why rugby league was a great fit for me as a kid.

One of my first games of football I remember was when Kerrod and I played for my older brother Andrew's team.

It was at the North Ipswich Reserve on the second field, where the Jets train now, and we just filled in on the wings.

From an early age, I always found playing rugby league exciting and challenging.

We came up against Norths and a little bloke with blond hair continually got the ball and ran around a lot of our teammates, including myself and Kerrod.

Kerrod still says to this day that he told everyone at the time (and years later) that this Allan Langer kid will play for Australia.

It's about the only thing Kerrod got right!

They were special times ... I'll always remember this blond kid who no one could get near.
if he didn't run around you, he ran through you. We just couldn't tackle him.

The beauty for us Walters boys growing up was that the rugby league field (Swifts) was just down the road at the end of Joyce Street.

There were no drop offs or pick-ups for Mum and Dad. We just ran down the road and used that as part of training, racing between the telegraph poles.

I remember Kerrod and I doing that a lot, from Under 7s right through to Under 18s.

It was just fun, that's what I remember more than anything else. I really enjoyed being part of a team.

I was always a pretty competitive sort of person too, so that did suit the team environment where you're getting challenged by other team members to get better.

Even to this day, there's a sense of excitement in my house when a new rugby league season is about to start.

We like our cricket and all the summer sports too, but rugby league has been our passion across the family and I can remember sitting down with Mum, Dad and all my brothers writing out our Origin team selections, which I'm sure people still do today.

Picking Queensland teams around the table with a roast meal ... there must have been thousands of conversations.

Not just Origin, but everything around rugby league, in those days the Brisbane Rugby League and the Jets, as well as the famous Kangaroos tours.

While I'm reminiscing about the good old days, I would really like to emphasise the importance of good coaches and volunteers.

I have been very fortunate with my coaches over the years. They always taught the basics well and were always supportive of the importance of enjoying our great game.

For some coaches, it's either all about winning, or trying to coach like an NRL coach.
It shouldn't be like that.

I would like to see a greater focus on kids learning the basic skills in a good environment.

Volunteers are so important, as they provide the opportunity for kids to play.

It's a great feeling when you see a player get to Origin level that you have had some involvement with over the years, and I think as a game we should all take more pride in celebrating the efforts of the volunteers who were part of that journey.

If you're getting sound advice from good people around you, it makes such a big difference.

I still remember Merv Stumer, who coached us for a few years at Ipswich representative level, and his three "B's" – no biff, booze or bad language.

He'd say at training, 'you can do what you like here at training fellas, we're going to have some fun and learn a few things, but I don't want to hear any bad language!'.

They were wise words that have stuck with me. And who knows, there may be a time when I roll them out myself soon!