Todd Cameron is nabbed in the last clash with the Comets on July 4.
Todd Cameron is nabbed in the last clash with the Comets on July 4. Debrah Novak

Calmer waters and new speed for rugby

What was your first coaching experience?

DALLAS WATERS: Back in 2007. I had just spent quite a few years away from Lower Clarence, returned as a player in 2006 and decided to put my hand up and have a go at coaching. I thought I was ready to step up in the coaching ranks and tried my hand. It was an enjoyable experience even though we finished sixth in the comp.

COL SPEED: Newtown Under-14s in Toowoomba where I had the opportunity to coach Benny and Jaiman Lowe who went on to play for South Sydney and North Queensland.

As a coach, who/what has been your biggest inspiration?

DW: I played under quite a few coaches during my time as a player and what I learnt from those experiences is most coaches were big on ensuring the players had a great work ethic, discipline and a good culture. From early on John Brown was the type of coach who brought all those things.

CS: All the knock-backs, blocks in the road and challenges that have been put out there have inspired me to prove to myself that I can do it. I've also looked up to and idolised Wayne Bennett. He is an absolute god.

Who is the best current NRL coach?

DW: Good question. There's quite a few and they've all got different styles. But the person who comes to mind is Wayne Bennett. He's got the runs on the board, demands that respect and turns a good footballer into a superstar. He's got that ability to develop players to become better players.

CS: Wayne Bennett, because of his discipline. He sticks to his principles and he's a great people manager. He seems to be able to get the best out of people.

What are the main influences on your coaching style?

DW: I've taken bits and pieces from playing football at a professional level in Sydney. I certainly learnt a lot during my time down there from people like Frank Ponissi at Manly, who certainly got the best out of his players. Once you come under that structure those principles stick with you. Someone I've always listened to closely in the background is my dad (Donnie Walker). He had a wonderful career with the Lower Clarence Magpies and he certainly mentored me into the person I am today. I always take his advice and he's had a big influence on the way I've shaped my teams.

CS: Whilst I look at the positives of a lot of people like Wayne Bennett, John Dixon and Anthony Seibold, I've learnt a lot about people management systems, and I had the opportunity to go down to St George. Even blokes like Steve Beetson at Acmena, I get a lot of ideas off him.

What is the biggest highlight of your coaching career?

DW: It's hard to go past the 2009 premiership with Lower Clarence Magpies in my third year of coaching.

CS: While the premierships are really good, I'm just very passionate with what I do and I love every opportunity I get to coach a team. The first year I had in 2008 with the Ghosts was very special. We got to the grand final as underdogs with a lot of young players. Also breaking the 28-year drought with Coffs Harbour Comets in 2013.

What are your biggest strengths?

DW: This is my first time coming into a club, working with a team and changing that culture the way I see fit. Something I've done this year was identify the gaps we needed to improve and bring good people to the club. You can bring great footballers, but they've got to be a good people as well. I want a club where players want to play, want to belong to a family and want to enjoy their football. That's the culture we've built at South Grafton, everyone wants to be a part of it. Our success this year hasn't just been confined to first grade. Under-18s and reserve grade have certainly contributed to our success. Personally, I think I'm a very strict coach, discipline is a key factor and putting in the hard work. Making the environment as comfortable as can be for players and ensuring that the respect can go both ways. I give people throughout the club the time and working in well with your committee plays a big part in ensuring success. Also being able to adapt my game plan to the opposition and always thinking about how we can introduce plays to catch the opposition by surprise. You've always got to ask questions of the opposition when you've got the ball in hand.

CS: Player management and being consistent in the things that we do.

What are the biggest strengths of your opposing coach?

DW: Col is a very astute thinker of the game and certainly does his homework on opposition teams. He has the ability to bring a side together that is always vying for that number one spot. Whether it's been Grafton or Coffs Harbour, he's had a great deal of success. He's been around a long time and I certainly have to respect him as a coach who's had the achievements he's had in Country Rugby League. He's right up there with the best of them.

CS: I think Dallas has got some really good qualities in player management. His best attribute is probably getting his players to play for each other and for him as well.

What are your plans for 2016?

DW: It's going to be very difficult walking away from coaching. I'm looking for a bit of a break to enjoy some free time with the family away from football and maybe focus on helping out the juniors in the Lower River area. I may come back in some capacity after that, but first the thing is to unwind and enjoy some time away. I'm certainly going to miss it, that's for sure. We're one big happy family and I've enjoyed my time with the Rebels. It's been fantastic.

CS: Still a bit up in the air so we'll wait until the dust settles. I've had a conversation with the president and they're happy with what I'm doing currently.

A final message to your players.

DW: It's been 40 years since the last premiership for the Rebels and we're going to have a few guys from that '75 team at the game. I want my boys to listen to those guys about what it means to them and to draw on that inspiration and channel that energy into the game on Sunday. Also to just go out and have fun on the day.

CS: Enjoy the occasion and make the most of it. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and they go away so quickly. A lot of the younger fellas take these things for granted but they shouldn't be. Just ask the fellas who went for 27 years without a premiership for Coffs Harbour.

A final message to your club's fans.

DW: The South Grafton Rebels fans are like no other in Country Rugby League and I want to say thank you for their support.

CS: Get on the bandwagon big time. To be in the grand final three years in a row is something to be pretty proud of. We also have under-18s in the grand final and they're the future.

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