OPINION: Kevvie has done Ipswich proud
"I GREW up in Ipswich and we don't know what smoke and mirrors are, so we're as honest as the day is long."
That quote from Kevin Walters during this Origin series is my favourite statement of the series and it says a lot about who Walters is and why he has been such a success as Maroons coach in his first year at the helm.
The context was the suggestion that somehow Cooper Cronk wasn't as badly injured as Queensland had made out in the leadup to Origin 1.
But Walters statement, made with a wry grin, said a lot about his approach to this Origin campaign.
He hasn't tried to be anyone else other than the made-in-Ipswich Kevin Walters we have all come to know and respect over almost three decades as a six-time premiership winner and coach.
Walters is not a conspiratorial character. He hasn't tried to antagonise NSW in subtle ways like Mal Meninga did during his reign.
Nothing against Big Mal there, but Walters has just been himself. What you see is what you get.
He's shown the utmost respect for his opponents while making sure the Maroons have been brilliantly prepared to win their 10th series from the last 11.
Some may long for the days when Origin was beat-up to an inch of its life by pre-game statements in the press.
But that is not Walters style. Never has been.
He has been wise not to go down that path.
I interviewed Kevin's brother Steve, the Maroons team manager, after Origin II for Rugby League Week and he made a great point.
"What I admire most about him is that he's been himself," Steve said.
"He's been honest with people, trusting with people and he's admitted when he was nervous.
"It is hard when it is your brother to keep an unbiased opinion, but he's done a great job."
Don't underestimate Walters influence on the Maroons attack.
Steve made the point that his brother has made some slight improvements and set up all the attacking structures for the team.
There was a try in Origin II where Johnathan Thurston passed the ball into empty space, Darius Boyd ran around and collected the ball and fired a pass to Corey Oates to score in the corner. It was a brilliant try and had Walters written all over it.
Steve Renouf always said that Walters, as a player, was a master at creating space. He would pass the ball into clean air and Renouf would hit the hole and explode into the distance.
For Renouf it was a case of running where the defenders weren't, and Walters would do the rest.
Whether Walters' side is able to become the fifth Maroons team to win five clean sweeps in Origin III tonight in Sydney is yet to be determined.
Win or lose, Walters has been a success and no-one can take away from him a series win at the first attempt as Origin coach. He only had one way to go after taking over from Meninga, and that was down.
But he has taken the Maroons - without Billy Slater, Will Chambers and the retired Justin Hodges - to another level.
Walters has done Ipswich, his state and his family proud. He has prevailed, and prevailed with sheer class.