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NRL Family Stories: The Walters clan

One of footy's greatest family stories began in an Ipswich backyard where a concrete path marked halfway.

The Walters clan - twins Kerrod and Kevin, and older brothers Steve, Andrew and Brett - spent hours honing their craft there as kids.

Kerrod, Kevin and Steve each played more than 200 premiership games and hold the distinction of being the only three brothers to represent Queensland and Australia.

Andrew and Brett were accomplished players as well who were graded with the Broncos.

But in those backyard days, it was all about enjoyment.

"Many a time Mum had to come down and break up a few fights, put couple of blokes in the sin bin," Kerrod, 52, told NRL.com as part of the EISS Super "Family Stories" series.

"That's where we learnt to play footy and we learnt to just to throw the ball around and have a bit of fun. I suppose one thing was the halfway line was a concrete path, so you stayed away from that one. Plenty of Mercurochrome got used.

"We just all loved the game. No one really stood out I suppose you could say. There was a four-year age gap between Brett and myself and Kevin, so we were all pretty close.

"We used to play two on three and swap around. We'd sort of get home from school in the afternoon at 3:30, we'd be down in the backyard straight away playing footy.

"We'd come in at dark. We couldn't play after that because Steven was scared of the dark."

Steve, two years older than Kerrod and Kevin and a year older than Andrew, reckons he took the longest to develop his skills.

"No one ever wanted me on their team," he laughed.

"The others will tell you apart from me they were all good players! I probably got a bit better as I got a bit older. But the other four were certainly all pretty well standouts."

Kevin and Kerrod are now Broncos legends while Steve is Raiders royalty. But the twins excelled at another sport.

"When Kevin and I were in under 18s we got selected in the Queensland under-18s baseball team as well," Kerrod said, adding they also played cricket during summer.

"The seasons sort of overlapped so we had to make a decision. We chose footy and probably chose the right one. It would've been interesting [to see] how far we could've gone in baseball."

Steve, a hooker, was the first to make his NSWRL debut for Canberra in 1986. He believes he was "lucky" for that to happen.

"Souths in Brisbane had a famous premiership win – they beat Wynnum-Manly in '85 and Wynnum-Manly had Wally Lewis and Gene Miles and Colin Scott and Greg Dowling and Bob Lindner. Origin players," Steve said.

"And Souths caused a big upset and probably their three best players were Mal Meninga, Gary Belcher and Eddie Muller was the hooker.

"The Raiders wanted to sign the three of the them. Of course, Belcher went and Meninga went but Eddie Muller went to the Bulldogs. So I was just lucky that because they missed out on him and I was in Brisbane and going OK, I got my chance from there."

Laurie Daley, Steve Walters and Gary Belcher celebrate Canberra's 1989 grand final win.
Laurie Daley, Steve Walters and Gary Belcher celebrate Canberra's 1989 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

Steve recalls Wayne Bennett bringing five-eighth Kevin to the Raiders in 1987 when he arrived to co-coach alongside Don Furner.

They lost the grand final in their first season together but won the classic '89 decider over Balmain before Kevin joined the Broncos.

"We actually shared a house, a little unit, down there at the time. Canberra's obviously a long way from Ipswich and it was good having some family there," Steve said.

"There's been lots talked about that [1989] grand final and it was a bit surreal at the time. I was probably still finding my way a little bit as a player in a team full of really good players."

Kerrod, also a hooker, featured in the Broncos' foundation 1988 season. When Kevin bolstered the team, the twins and halfback Allan Langer formed the famous "Ipswich Connection".

Kevin Walters rejoices after scoring for Queensland in 1998.
Kevin Walters rejoices after scoring for Queensland in 1998. ©NRL Photos

Langer, a junior teammate of Andrew's, first built a combination with Kerrod and Kevin when they all played for the Ipswich Jets.

Kerrod was delighted to have his twin return to Brisbane.

"I think it probably helped our games, going there for three years at Canberra he sort of developed his game a different way and I developed my game as well," Kerrod said.

"When he came back, it was just like old times I suppose, only we had learnt a different way to how we played the game.

"Because we played so much footy together, we had a sort of uncanny instinct about what the other was going to do.

"It was just throw caution to the wind and just see what happens, you know. If they score one we'll score two – that was our philosophy."

That mindset served them well. 

Together, the pair won two premierships (1992 and '93) and represented Queensland for the first time when Kevin debuted in 1989.

"I've got a great photo here at home [with Kevin] after the game," Kerrod said. "It sits atop in my office here. It's a very proud photo."

With Kerrod and Steve always jostling for rep jerseys as hookers, the three brothers were never in the Origin or Test team at once.

Wests Tigers utility Billy Walters.
Wests Tigers utility Billy Walters. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"There was friendly rivalry [between me and Steve] ... Looking back it would've been so hard for Mum and Dad," Kerrod said.

"To think that two sons were competing for the same position and only one could make it ... We had a healthy respect for each other and I appreciated what a great player Steven was.

"To sort of be kept out of Origin and Australia because of him, I could accept that. Not only because he was my brother, but because he was such a great player as well."

Steve added: "I think it would've been worse if someone was missing out and never got nothing. I didn't think of it too much myself."

On one occasion their competitiveness spilled over.

"I remember my Mum never used to get too dirty, but one day we were losing to the Broncos and I was getting shitty and I just sort of clipped Kerrod on the ear with my elbow on the ground," Steve said.

"I got the no-talkies off Mum next time I went back to Brisbane. She wasn't very happy! Kerrod's still crapping on about how he got a cauliflower ear out of it. It was a bit embarrassing."

The trio toured England in 1992 as part of the World Cup squad.

"Our parents weren't big travellers but they made the trip over to watch the World Cup final. Kerrod didn't get to play in that one unfortunately, but myself and Kevin had good games," Steve said.

"[Kerrod and Kevin] stayed on because they had the Broncos' World Club Challenge after that, so Mum stayed and watched that. It was a great couple of months for the family, that's for sure."

Kevin, a six-time premiership winner, has coached the Maroons since 2016, while Steve was the team's manager for 20 years until resigning a few months ago. Kerrod tries to get in Kevin's ear to offer advice.

"He gets a lot of phone calls from me during Origin time. He sees me calling and he pushes it through to the keeper," Kerrod laughed.

Kerrod Walters won two premierships at Brisbane and represented Queensland and Australia.
Kerrod Walters won two premierships at Brisbane and represented Queensland and Australia. ©NRL Photos

"Because I love the game and I'm passionate and I want Queensland to do well, but more importantly I want Kevvie to do well as a coach."

There's another Walters on the NRL scene - Kevin's son Billy, who debuted for the Storm last year and now plays for Wests Tigers. The 26-year-old will play five-eighth in Friday's clash with Brisbane.

"It's great to think there's another Walters at that level … Billy's got a lot of ability, I'm sure if he just keeps his head down and keeps trying hard his time will come," Kerrod said.

"I firmly believe his time will come at number nine, I think he'll make a first-class number nine."

Steve said the brothers' playing days "feels like a long time ago" but "sometimes you have a few beers and get a bit lippy".

"There's a bit of rivalry there between the Broncos and the Raiders, but most of the time it's fairly amicable," he said.

"Unless Kerrod's had too much wine and starts talking shit!"