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Maroons coach Kevin Walters at a development camp.

Kevin Walters has stepped up preparation for the future success of the Maroons after leading a Queensland under 18s camp on the Sunshine Coast this week.

In a fortnight the Maroons will hold a senior camp in Brisbane for a squad of 33 players and will also conduct a Queensland under 20s camp.

State of Origin will celebrate its 40-year anniversary this year and when the 50-year celebrations roll around in a decade Maroons coach Walters will be hoping that a healthy core of the current under 18s are mainstays of a winning Queensland side.

"The 18s has always been a huge part of our pathways program. The 16s start it all, and then the 18s into the 20s and we have seen a huge progression of these players in the last five to 10 years," Walters told

Maroons junior player Sam Walker.
Maroons junior player Sam Walker. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"There is a squad of 34 in the 18s so we have cast the net far and wide to give a lot of players an opportunity. It is important to get our pathways right because Origin is different to clubland.

"The time they spend together will be invaluable for this year and also down the track at higher levels."

The Queensland 18s squad includes Sydney Roosters halfback Sam Walker and giant back-rower Jack Howarth who is aligned to the Storm. Both starred for the Australian Schoolboys in their win over the Junior Kiwis last year.

Broncos youngster Brendan Piakura.
Broncos youngster Brendan Piakura. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Walker and Howarth were unavailable for this week's camp but highly rated back-rower Brendan Piakura and fullback Reece Walsh, both contracted to the Broncos, were on hand after starring for Tweed Heads in last year's under 18s national final and for the Australian Schoolboys.

"Origin football is won more on effort areas but you can't win Origin matches without talent and it was great to see so much talent on show from a Queensland point of view at that age," Walters said.

"There are a few of them training in NRL squads and when you look back 40 years that would never have been happening.

"Alfie [Langer] was the pick of players in my era and he didn't play NRL until he was 21 so the acceleration of these kids and the opportunities put in front of them are tremendous.

"It is like the old saying that if you are good enough you are old enough."

Walters has revamped the senior Maroons camp for this year. Instead of inviting just emerging Maroons to attend, this year the majority of the 2019 Queensland State of Origin team will join the emerging players in early February for a two-day camp.

If you are good enough you are old enough

Kevin Walters on the search for future Maroons

"This is all about winning now and into the future. There are some really strong stats around how if you spend more time together the better the camaraderie and mateship, where people get to know each other and their personalities," Walters said.

"For so long we have been blessed as Queenslanders to have the key players come from one or two clubs.

"Last year the spine came from all different clubs so I thought this was an opportune time, considering how many players we have blooded in the last four or five years, to keep that core group together.

Maroons coach Kevin Walters.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"We have players coming in that haven't played Origin and some who have but didn't for whatever reason in the last 12 months. We have cast the net and are very happy with some of the young ones we have coming through.

"There's Ronaldo Mulitalo from Cronulla who is an exciting talent. Corey Horsburgh accelerated last year at Canberra as did guys like Reed Mahoney from Parramatta and Tom Flegler from the Broncos.

"With all these young kids coming into camp with the more senior players at Origin level, I know it will be an outstanding success."

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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