Shane Walker insists club legend Keiron Lander is the perfect fit to be his right-hand man in 2020 now his brother Ben has announced 2019 will be his last as Ipswich Jets co-coach.
Shane said Ben was not done with coaching by a long shot and would be getting into some consultancy work in the field to “broaden his horizons”.
The Intrust Super Cup Round 23 clash at Sunshine Coast will be Ben’s last at the helm, where the Walker brothers will coach the Jets for a record breaking 219th time in the Cup, overtaking former Wests and Norths coach Wayne Treleaven’s 218-game record.
Lander, who will be Jets assistant coach in 2020, was captain of the Jets' 2015 premiership-winning Cup side, which also lifted the NRL State Championship trophy.
“It is exciting for Keiron because he has ambition to coach. Unofficially from the day he retired he has been on the coaching staff from 2016 onwards,” Walker said.
“We very much think along the same lines but like I was to Ben and Ben was to me, Keiron is very willing to challenge our thinking which is healthy.
“We have enjoyed working with Keiron from day one and he is happy to hold you accountable to what your goals and values are. He won’t allow things to stray from where they need to be.
“We will try and innovate and be courageous with the way we play. We certainly won’t be picking up Craig Bellamy or Trent Robinson’s playbook. We will continue to do what is unique to us and our playing group.”
Walker said Lander had “always had leadership qualities” and would bring respect and direction to his new role.
“When he first arrived at the club, because he was a bit of a larrikin and a man’s man, he didn’t realise the leadership qualities that he had,” Shane said.
“Keiron has tremendous respect amongst the playing group and within the club which is really important when you are looking to get a message across.
From that regard it will make his job a lot easier. He has a sharp footy brain and he is tough. The great thing about his leadership as a player was because of how tough he was he never had to speak about it. He just did it. That sort of approach we have also seen in his coaching style to date.”
The Walker brothers were looking at some tape of a game last week when Ben broke the news to his brother that this season would be his last as co-coach of Ipswich.
Last Tuesday when a video session with the players ended, it was time for a matter of fact “speech” to the players by Ben.
“Ben doesn’t get too flustered about most things so we pretty much finished the video last Tuesday and he casually said ‘by the way boys, next year I won’t be coaching’. There were no airs or graces,” Shane said.
“He didn’t give them time to lament. Ben had them up and off their chair and into training before they could think about what they had just heard.”
The Walker brothers started coaching together at the Burleigh Bears in 2008 and have been head coaches of the Ipswich Jets since 2011; Shane conceded coaching without his brother by his side would take some getting used to.
“It will be really weird. We have done it for so long together, and being brothers, a lot of the time we don’t have to talk about something because you know exactly what the other is thinking,” Shane said.
“I can be on the couch watching a Friday night game with friends and will see something. I will say ‘I bet Ben rings in five minutes’ and sure enough he will have seen the same thing.”
Shane insisted the coaching combination with his brother was not over with - the dream of coaching together in the NRL still alive.
“Ben leaves a terrific legacy at the Jets but if the opportunity arises we will certainly get the band back together again,” he said.
“A lot of footy clubs have made poor staffing decisions in the past and will possibly continue to in the future so we know when the time is right the right NRL board will make a very rewarding decision for themselves.
“I will go to my grave with the dream alive. You can’t let the music die in you.”