Word out of south-east Queensland is that the struggling Titans have one name and one name only on their shortlist of coaching candidates.
That’d be Kevin Walters.
While the State of Origin mentor has publicly declared that he’s “committed to coaching Queensland”, the good oil suggests he’ll be named the club’s newest coach this week.
It’s just that rather than asking to be coach, he wants to be asked. And apparently the club will oblige him.
The question I’m asking is why are the Titans so desperate to get Walters on board?
After sacking rookie mentor Garth Brennan and with the club on the ropes, the chairman declared the struggling franchise was facing their “last stand”.
“At the end of the day, appointing the coach is the probably the most important decision you are going to make so clearly we are looking for a strong leader with a track record of success who is going to have high personal standards and uphold standards throughout the organisation,” Dennis Watt said.
Now, I’m not going to question Walters’ personal standards or his leadership. But those are the kind of qualities you tend to discover two or three years into someone’s tenure – he’s just as likely to succeed or fail as anyone else on those counts.
The real issue the Titans should be concerned with was buried in the middle of Watt’s position description: a track record of success.
Of the three legit coaches they’ve had thus far, John Cartwright and Brennan were first-timers, while Neil Henry had winning records of 45 and 48 per cent from his respective stints at the Canberra Raiders and North Queensland Cowboys.
And after two rolls of the dice on unproven talent and a punt on a respected but unsuccessful mentor, the Titans have a trophy cabinet chock-full of nothing.
So it’s understandable this time around they want to do things differently and take onboard someone who knows what it takes to win in the NRL, because that person has done it before.
And who have they decided is the man for the job? Yeah, that’d be a fella who’s never been head coach of a first-grade NRL side.
Sure, he’s been an assistant to the likes of Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett, but ‘I’m a heaps good second-in-charge’ were the top lines of both Cartwright and Brennan’s CVs.
Walters was coach of a top-flight side in the Super League, although that was ten years ago – in the 2009 and ’10 seasons – and he left the Catalan Dragons having won just 37 per cent of his games.
While he can also point to the fact he’s been Queensland coach for the past four years and Origin is a spotlight ten times brighter than any NRL gig, well, it also only lasts six weeks per year – and you get the benefit of being in charge of 17 of the best players in the game.
Running an NRL side is a year-round job, during which time you’re not only overseeing a squad containing far less talent than a rep team, you’re also managing the cap, overseeing emerging talent, ensuring your players aren’t being dickheads on the piss, keeping competing egos in check, making nice with sponsors, attending fan functions, probably getting hauled in front of the board every few months…
It’s a bastard of a job, but the money is amazing and, by the looks of it, winning a grand final makes it all worthwhile. Regardless, neither the Titans nor Walters should equate ‘Origin coach’ with ‘NRL coach’. They’re chalk and cheese.
And, not for nothing, the Maroons have won exactly half their games under Walters – and haven’t had a series victory since Cameron Smith called a day on rep footy – so he can’t even claim to have a track record of success with Queensland.
Ultimately, I’m not saying Kevin Walters is a bad coach. I’m merely pointing out that he’s inexperienced as the top dog, and his little taste of first-grade and representative coaching hasn’t been successful in terms of games won.
All that said, success on the Gold Coast is going to be about far more than simply winning footy games. They need to cement themselves in the hearts and minds of the locals, and finally put to bed suggestions they are one bad season away from becoming the South Brisbane Titans.
But, in the same breath, winning footy games makes the other part way easier.
And maybe Kevin Walters is the man to get it done. But the idea he should get the job over other equally (un)qualified candidates without so much as presenting his case to the board suggests the Titans haven’t learnt any lessons from a decade of disappointment.