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Kevin Walters Behind the Armour

Proudly wearing his new red-and-blue Newcastle Knights jumper, Kevin Walters looks every bit a Novocastrian.   

In many ways it's a weird statement to make, given Walters' well-known allegiances to the Brisbane Broncos and Queensland.     

Yet sitting in his new office at Knights HQ this week discussing his role as the Club's halves coach, the loyal Maroon is comfortable. 

You see, while Walters jokes that the blue on his new uniform doesn't suit him, he is genuinely pumped at the prospect of working with the Knights and helping the players take their football to another level.   

"As a coach you want to work with some of the best players in the game and they are certainly here at the Knights," Walters tells Behind the Armour.

"Blokes like (Tyrone) Roberts and (Jarrod) Mullen were both outstanding last year through the run to the finals and I just want to help them maintain that consistency in their game every week. 

"So it should be exciting times for the Knights and hopefully myself as well."

Prior to linking with Newcastle this season, Walters spent three seasons at the Melbourne Storm under Craig Bellamy as an assistant coach. 

With the Knights taking on the Storm in a crucial clash at AAMI Park on Monday night, we sat down with the four-time premiership-winning player turned coach to talk tactics. 

From how to contain Melbourne's big three Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith to turning up with the right mindset, Walters knows what it takes to topple the Storm on home turf. 

And he puts it down to one simple philosophy - 'Do the little things well and consistently well'.

"Yeah that’s it to a tee," he grins.

"Craig is very big on the little things and attention to detail in that sort of stuff.

"They are off to a good start to the season with two wins, so it’s a big challenge for our boys.

"But look we’ve trained well again this week and they are all looking forward to what is coming up.

"Newcastle has also had some success there in the past and had a big win last year at AAMI Park.

"So you’ve got to have a good strong mentality coming up against the Storm, particularly at home because they don’t lose too many at home.

"I think the boys will get on the plane quietly confident though in giving a good performance, because in past years I think the Knights have shown a real steel in their defence and that will be the case again on Monday." 

Walters freely admits Newcastle has let themselves down with ball control and execution in the opening two rounds, but he expects those vital aspects of their game to improve on Monday night.

He has also encouraged the Knights to chance their arm against Melbourne.  

"I think a little bit of unpredictability as well helps when playing the Storm," he explains. 

"All those things are very important in any game, no matter if you’re playing Melbourne, Manly, the Roosters or anyone.

"It doesn’t matter who you are playing, you need to get those things right.

"We’ve just been a little bit off the pace with that, so we need to address those for sure.

"But we’ll continue to work hard on what we are working on here.

"I also think defensively as well you need to be pretty sharp, because Slater, Cronk and Smith have still got the little trick shots.

"And there are a few other Storm boys in that line-up who deserve a bit of attention as well, like Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich and young Ben Hampton.

"So they’ve got some good strike." 

Speaking of strike, the Knights have struggled for cohesion in attack on the back of injuries to key players Darius Boyd and Jarrod Mullen. 

While Walters knows this is the case, he says he has been highly impressed with the effort of new recruit Michael Dobson at five-eighth.   

As a player who left Brisbane for Warrington in 2001 and then returned to the Broncos later that season, he completely understands how difficult it is to make the transition from the Super League to the NRL. 

That's why Walters remains confident Dobson will only get better with time after his five-and-a-half year stint in England with Hull KR. 

"He is doing a really good job Dobbo," he enthuses.

"I think he was better last week from the opening round, so we’ll be looking to see some more improvement from him.

"It’s a big ask to come back from the Super League straight into the NRL.

"It’s a lot faster and you’ve got less time, but he is doing a good job for us.

"We’ll be relying on him for his experience more than anything going down to Melbourne.

"He is very good talking to the guys and executing what we’re trying to implement here.

"That will be a big job for him, but I’m sure he is up to it."

As well as working with the Storm and now Knights, Walters has also worked in a number of coaching roles over the years from the Queensland Cup through to a two-year gig with the Catalan Dragons in the English Super League.  

The former Kangaroos five-eighth was looking to land a full-time role as a head NRL coach this season, but when that didn't eventuate he jumped at the chance to link up with Wayne Bennett again after all those successful years at the Broncos.  

You see, here is a guy who lives and breathes rugby league. 

On top of his gigs at the Knights and Queensland rugby league, he still finds the time to provide footy analysis and comment for Triple M, Fox Sports and Big League magazine.  

Walters is an NRL coach in waiting and the Knights are lucky to have him on board given all his knowledge and experience. 

"Wayne and I just started speaking one day and he told me there might be an opportunity down here to work with him at Newcastle," he says.

"I thought it would be fantastic for me personally to stay involved at this level.

"Training has been good so far, very enjoyable. 

"It’s a lot different to the previous coach I worked with Craig Bellamy, a lot less intense (laughs). 

"It’s been good though and now we are just looking for that win, so hopefully it will come on Monday night."

With Walters on the Knights' side, you can bet this is every chance of happening.