“Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
Despite being the protagonist of Kevin Walters and the Interstate Series, you have to wonder whether the Queensland mentor is familiar with the wisdom of Albus Dumbledore.
Apparently on the advice of Bradley Charles Stubbs – we’ll use his real name, rather than refer to him as ‘the coach whisperer’, so as not to amp up the fear – Walters has decided he won’t speak the name of the NSW Blues.
In fact, more than just place a ban on himself discussing his opposition, Walters has made a squad-wide edict.
“Kevvie said we can’t talk about them. He just wants the focus to be on us and what we can do,” Ben Hunt said earlier this week.
Then those bloody Queenslanders decided the rule was to be placed upon reporters covering the lead-up to the Origin series opener as well.
According to NRL.com, “At high noon on Tuesday in Queensland camp in Charleville the attending media were informed by a QRL official that none of the players, or the coach Kevin Walters, would be answering questions about the NSW Blues.”
So, of course, the journos in attendance did their best to get players to break the new rule, asking Joe Ofahengaue who he would be facing in his interstate debut.
“I think we are playing the other team,” Ofahengaue replied.
Impressive stuff from the youngster – Rita Skeeter herself would have struggled to turn that into an incriminating quote.
But if they’re not allowed to so much as mention the opposition, how is this young Queensland side supposed to develop a chip on their shoulder?
It’s been one of the most impressive aspects of the Maroons’ dominance of the past decade or so: despite constantly winning, each year a team of future Immortals bought into this idea that they were underdogs who the Blues looked down upon.
They were the Gryffindors of the interstate series, somehow always managing to conjure a ridiculous, last-gasp, would-call-it-magic-if-I-hadn’t-seen-it-with-my-own-eyes play to beat those haughty Slytherins from south of the border.
Now, though, who are the Cane Toads going to blame for every slight they imagine to have been slung their way in the lead-up to Game One?
It seems like a recipe for Origin disaster – particularly since QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher was quoted this week in the Courier Mail using some pretty salty language to question hiring Stubbs.
“I can hand-on-heart say I knew nothing about this coach whisperer,” Hatcher said on Thursday.
“I am astounded a bloke thinks he’s so good he can charge $5500 an hour. That’s f–ing crazy.”
Disunity north of the Tweed? That’s rarer than a Hungarian Horntail!
To be fair to Stubbs, his methods have reaped success in the past, having worked with the likes of Michael Maguire and Trent Robinson in the Rabbitohs’ and Roosters’ most recent premiership-winning years.
Word is Stubbs was so confident of the Bunnies pulling a premiership out of their hat, he promised Maguire he would go all Peter Pettigrew and lop off one of his fingers if Souths weren’t successful.
As for the source of his magic, in a rare interview with the Sydney Morning Herald last year, Stubbs spoke of “‘power words’ that the subconscious mind reacts to”.
“It’s all about us: the next training session, the next weights session,” Stubbs said. “You never talk about the opposition.”
Stubbs was not forthcoming on whether other ‘power words’ he employed included Wingardium Leviosa, Expelliarmus or Avada Kedavra.
His record is not completely unblemished, however, having worked with Michael Cheika in the Wallabies’ run to the 2015 Rugby World Cup final.
While the Aussies’ second-place showing was a mighty effort, Stubbs’ insistence that Cheika only refer to the Kiwis as ‘New Zealand’ was not enough to shake the All Blacks’ dark-magic hex over the men in gold.
Which perhaps explains why Walters won’t even allow the words ‘New South Wales’ be uttered in his camp. No mentioning ‘They-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’. At all.
Wouldn’t you love to pull on your invisibility cloak and watch a Queensland video session or strategy meeting with those rules in place?
Down south, Freddie Fittler has brought some supposedly whacky methods to his camp as well, but rules such as ‘no mobile phones’ and ‘earth yourself’ simplify things. And I’d much rather go barefoot at the end of a session than constantly be on my toes about what I can and can’t say.
Stubbs’ wizardry adds an unnecessary layer of complexity to ten days that should be as straightforward as possible.
And while the Maroons are unlikely to come out on Wednesday night fearing the Blues as a result of not mentioning them during the preparations, it’s also hard to see how they’ll be pissed off at them either.
Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding, and a Queensland victory will completely justify the entire process – including Stubbs’ $5500-per-hour invoices.
But if he’s left red-faced come series’ end, I’d recommend Kevin Walters invest in a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone next year instead.
Plenty of wisdom in those pages – and it’ll save your employers a few grand as well.