Kevin Walters is running out of troops ahead of the State of Origin opener.
Kevin Walters is running out of troops ahead of the State of Origin opener. GLENN HUNT

Fatty's solace might help Kevvie sleep more soundly

DESPITE commentating for opposing TV networks, Queensland stalwarts Kevvie Waters and Paul 'Fatty' Vautin would most likely cross paths on a weekly basis and have the odd footy chat.

But the time has arrived for them to sit and seriously compare notes about how to solve a looming State of Origin dilemma. And this week's Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium seems the perfect place for that pow wow.

Let's be honest - Queensland's State of Origin prospects are in tatters. A fair indication of the likelihood of the Maroons winning the upcoming series is that three weeks out from team selections the Blues are at $1.45 - and shortening - to win their first back-to-back series in 14 years.

Of the 22 players who frocked up in Queensland's 2-1 loss last year, three are no longer playing, one is out injured, another two are unlikely to be fit for at least the opener and a minimum of seven of that number are - to be kind - badly out of form.

And, of the all-important spine, only the fullback and the five-eighth are certain selections. So shambolic is the situation facing coach Walters and his selection panel that half a dozen names have been thrown up for the captaincy position vacated by the recently-retired Greg Inglis.

But those who recall the 1995 Origin series may view this current Maroon dilemma with scant concern. For the uninitiated, that series remains the greatest upset in Origin history.

And that is why Vautin, the rookie coach of Queensland that year, needs to break bread with Walters who, ironically, was one of 14 players from the previous series ineligible to play in 1995 because they had signed to play Super League.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Paul Vautin, coach of the Maroons celebrates with Craig Teevan after game two State of Origin match between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground May 31, 1995 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)
Paul Vautin celebrates a Maroons win with Craig Teevan in 1995. Sean Garnsworthy

Vautin accepted the coaching reins no-one else wanted, took a team of many unknowns into battle, and they clean-swept the series.

And not only did they beat a Blues team boasting the likes of Brad Fittler, Andrew Johns, Geoff Toovey, Paul Harragon, Steve Menzies and Tim Brasher, the Maroons used only 18 men over the three games.

This upcoming series is taking on a familiar look. The Blues have an embarrassment of riches, so much so that coach Fittler is even contemplating sacking two members of his series-winning spine.

Walters, conversely, is looking for a halfback, a dummy-half and a captain.

Add to that the fact the three Queensland NRL teams are running 11th, 13th and 14th in the 16-team competition and it's little wonder the coach needs some reassurance.

Following a golden run of 10 winning series in 11 years, Queensland's day of reckoning was always going to materialise.

There have been calls from some for Cameron Smith to come out of rep retirement. Image: Mark Stewart
There have been calls from some for Cameron Smith to come out of rep retirement. Image: Mark Stewart

The recent retirements of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater burst the bubble, and the loss of Inglis and Valentine Holmes have done nothing to ease the pain.

Walters knew that, but he obviously didn't bank on Daly Cherry-Evans, Josh McGuire and Andrew McCullough going down injured, and the likes of Michael Morgan, Matt Gillett, Gavin Cooper, Coen Hess, Jarrod Wallace, Will Chambers and Anthony Milford starting the season like second-raters.

While Fatty's solace will not solve the problem, it may help Kevvie sleep a little sounder.