WINNING COMBO: Coach Kevin Walters and captain Cameron Smith talk tactics during a Queensland State of Origin team training session.
WINNING COMBO: Coach Kevin Walters and captain Cameron Smith talk tactics during a Queensland State of Origin team training session. Contributed

Smith inspired for 25 years by Maroons mentor

CAMERON Smith has revealed how Kevin Walters was one of his idols as a youth and explained why the Ipswich legend has been able to get the best out of the Queensland side as coach.

Cameron's father Wayne once said that his son now bleeds purple for Melbourne, but as a youth always wanted to play for the Broncos, the club he supported.

Smith was born in 1983.

When he was a youngster, the Broncos and Walters brothers were in their pomp.

Smith played in the halves like Walters in his younger days which meant when Kevvie was playing, Cam was observing him closely.

"I remember watching him in a lot of games because I played five-eighth as a junior. So he was 'the man','' Smith said. "As a kid I was lucky to be a Broncos fan. They had a golden period in 1992/93 when they went back-to-back and then won in 1997, 1998 and 2000."

Now coached by Walters, Smith said Walters as a coach was not a 'my way or the highway' style of mentor.

He said his success was due to his devotion to the cause and consultative approach.

"He is very passionate about this footy side and very passionate about the state," he said.

"It is not uncommon for him to get a little bit emotional in a lot of the meetings that we have when he is talking about the team and what needs to be done in a match. He was assistant coach of this (Queensland) side for quite a long time and he spent a couple of years at the Storm. I understand his coaching style.

"He is very open and quite happy to take suggestions from everyone else about what is best. I've been very lucky to have a guy like Mal (Meninga) . . . and now Kevvie. These are blokes you watched on TV and hoped you could be like."

Smith and Walters are close and share a bit of banter together in the lighter moments.

"I used to stir (Walters) up a little bit about how he claimed his career on The Pearl (Steve Renouf)," Smith grinned.

"He'd throw a long ball to Pearl and he'd get the glory for the try assist."

Smith chose the Storm over the Broncos as a teenager because of opportunity.

He and his parents met with Wayne Bennett in his office to discuss a contract but Luke Priddis was at Brisbane at the time and playing some outstanding football.

"I really wanted to join the Broncos, being a fan since a little boy," Smith said.

"But I just thought at that stage I had a better chance of playing first grade was at Melbourne because the only hooker on their roster was Richard Swain.

"The Broncos had Priddo and Mick Ryan, who there was massive wraps on. I thought I had two ahead of me who could play long stints.

"I thought if I gave Melbourne a crack at least as an 18-year-old I'd be second string.

"There is no doubt that if I felt I had an opportunity to play first grade in Brisbane I would have signed that day.

"But I had to brush the temptation of wanting to be a Bronco to play first grade (at Melbourne). Luckily it panned out."



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