They say that faith can move mountains.
Right now you get the feeling Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters could lasso a rope around Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kosciuszko and move them wherever he wanted such is the self-belief, and belief in the Maroons, that permeates his every utterance.
Walters was criticised in some quarters for his edict to not mention the New South Wales Blues before State of Origin Game I, and because of his association with mind coach Bradley Charles Stubbs.
That criticism missed the point of what Walters was trying to achieve. The fact is that all coaches use strategies to get the best out of the teams they mentor in a variety of circumstances.
Anyone that knows Walters realises that he wants only what is best for the Queensland team. That passion shines through when he occasionally gets teary, just discussing his team.
During Walters’ tenure as Maroons coach he has seen the exits of Queensland greats Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk. Let us also not forget to add Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Nate Myles to that list.
Walters has a new side, a young side and a side that needs to hear positive messages in camp and to have them reinforced.
The last thing Walters would want is for his squad to feel as though the era of Queensland dominance is somehow over, or to have his players believe Blues players are in any way superior to the Queenslanders now in the squad.
That is why we often hear him say, as he did on Monday in Perth ahead of Game II, that Queensland will win and expects to win.
Origin games through the years are not noted for big comebacks. That is why when Queensland trailed 8-0 at half-time in Origin I, the players needed to have the utmost faith they would be good enough to fight back and prevail.
Those positive messages that Walters has reinforced were clearly front and centre of the Maroons’ minds when they returned to the field.
There was a period of the second half when Queensland’s defence was inspired. The players grew an extra arm and leg and repelled the Blues with gusto.
Kalyn Ponga showed great belief, and skill, to throw the two superb cut-out passes that led to Queensland tries.
Dane Gagai backed himself when he went for the intercept that led to his length of the field try. No self-doubt there. No way.
Those players all believed. They expected what they did would work, and it did work an absolute treat.
Walters may not have used his current strategy if he had a team full of all-time greats in it. He is using a tactic that is suited to the times.
What the six-time premiership winner has achieved so far as Queensland coach is of great significance. The Maroons have won two series out of three under Walters’ stewardship and are in sight of three from four.
Over the years we have seen Origin teams and club teams fall off a cliff when a suite of greats, or sometimes even one or two, sail off into the sunset.
The retirement of Andrew Johns had a massive impact on the fortunes of both Newcastle and NSW. The Blues have struggled ever since to find a halfback they could count on to produce the maestro performances they relied on in the Origin arena from a player of Johns’ stature.
Sure, Queensland had a bounty of greats all in the side at once, but their retirements have not seen the Maroons bowed or beaten. In the games they did lose in the 2018 series, both were close and they were by no means disgraced.
This is a great credit to Walters and the players that have been selected.
Queensland needed a steady hand as they embarked on a new era without their favourite sons. Walters has done that with aplomb so far. The job is far from done however. The Maroons will enter Sunday’s clash with NSW confident of success, but they will also need to prepare well to thwart what is a new-look NSW side with players that have been in form for their clubs.
The Maroons will respect the Blues, but they will prepare to win and they will expect to win. That is the way it should be.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 2 -
Venue: Optus Stadium, Perth