Cooper Cronk has lauded Kevin Walters’ impact for turning the Broncos from wooden spooners into title contenders as Craig Bellamy backed them to go all the way in 2023.
When Walters took over the Broncos had won their first ever wooden spoon in 2020, but Cronk believes the man they call Kevvie, who won five premierships with the club as a player, knew exactly how to get the club back to its best.
“Kevvie Walters needs a fair bit of credit for that,” Cronk said on Fox League.
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“In his playing days he saw all the best players come through the Broncos and won multiple competitions.
“He goes back and coaches and goes, OK what did I learn through my playing days at the Broncos? I learnt that they needed to believe they were the best team in the competition.
“Whether you are a 300-gamer or a rookie, to play for the Brisbane Broncos meant something and you had to play with a bit of swagger.
“There is a fine balance between getting it right and wrong, but I put that whole belief, confidence, swagger and Brisbane mentality down to Kevvie because he is Brisbane through and through.
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“He went through some challenges early on and he has done a tremendous job. You can give credit to Adam Reynolds and those young guys to deliver on skill, but I tell you what Kevvie Walters or any coach in any organisation sets the tone for the team and they are following through with his orders.”
Kevvie praises ‘orchestrator’ Reynolds | 06:52
After watching his side get demolished 26-0, Bellamy saw no evidence to overturn his assumption that the Broncos can win a drought-breaking premiership.
“Yeah, without a doubt. I’ve said that (all season) and I don’t know if people don’t believe me but the Broncos and Penrith have been well ahead of all the other teams from what I’ve seen,” Bellamy said.
“Again, September is a new competition. I’m not sure where that come from tonight but sometimes a team like the Broncos or Penrith might do that as well.
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“But they can certainly go all the way. Last week, if they win that game they’re minor premiers and you’ve had a pretty good year when you’re a minor premier, they’re hard to get.
“Their attack is a real strong point but I think the biggest thing tonight has been their defence, to be quite honest, they seemed to disrupt us a fair bit tonight and I think that’s the area they’re improving most.
“Reynolds hasn’t been there for a little bit either and I thought he made a massive difference tonight, we know how good a kicker he is but some of his defensive plays tonight were outstanding.”
Shook Bellamy speaks on Papenhuyzen | 06:38
While the Warriors’ Andrew Webster is favourite for coach of the year honours after guiding the New Zealand side to the top four, Michael Ennis believes Walters is just as deserving of the top gong for what he has done at Brisbane.
“There has been a lot of debate over the last couple of weeks as we come to this pointy end of the season as to who deserves to be the coach of the year and a lot of accolades have deservedly gone to Andrew Webster and what he has done at the Warriors,” Ennis said.
“But if you sit back and think when you go into a new organisation and everything is fresh and everyone is looking for new ideas and a way forward.
“They (Warriors) ran 15th last year and they get an assistant coach form a premiership winning side and they listen about his way forward and he has done a great job with them to get them into the top four and some of the footy they have played this year has been spectacular.
“But you cannot underestimate being a former Brisbane player and knowing how big that club is and the expectation of that club and that community. And where the pressure was coming on Kevvie after that catastrophic back end of the season last year.
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“To be able to turn that around and be able to convince these young guys of the way forward for this club to get the best out of them and the buy-in from them and their attitude shift defensively shows the character of the young players, but more importantly the coach.”