Give Kevvie a break.
That was the message from Queensland great Chris Close who claimed new Maroons coach Kevin Walters’ leadership should not be questioned in the wake of a controversial Emerging Origin camp.
The man affectionately named as “Choppy” has thrown his support behind Walters who has endured a nightmare start to his Maroons reign.
Cronulla’s Valentine Holmes and Melbourne’s Cameron Munster defied Walters’ orders and broke curfew at the weekend camp in Brisbane, later copping 12-month Origin bans.
But a News Corp report claimed eight others also ignored Walters and went out drinking in the early hours of Sunday morning.
If that was not enough, the report claimed Munster now felt like a “scapegoat” and would consider appealing his 12-month ban.
The QRL said an investigation into the disastrous camp is “still ongoing”.
Walters appeared to have had enough of the controversy when he appeared in Auckland ahead of the Nines on Thursday on QRL duties.
Flanked by TV reporters he offered a stern “no comment” when quizzed if Broncos halfback Ben Hunt had been the latest player to confess to breaking the curfew.
No doubt it is a tough start for Walters who is trying to fill the big shoes left behind by the all-conquering Mal Meninga.
But Close said no one could question the way Walters had conducted himself to date.
“Kevvie has done everything right. There should be no slur on his coaching,” he told AAP.
“He has my full and total support.”
The camp produced the first crisis for Walters just weeks into a job he was initially denied by the QRL.
The QRL surprisingly bypassed long-time Maroons assistant Walters when Meninga left to take up the Kangaroos reins in December and offered the Queensland job to the Cowboys’ Paul Green.
But the NRL premiership-winning coach knocked it back, forcing the QRL to backflip and belatedly offer Walters the role.
Close – man-of-the-match in the first two Origins ever played – said the focus of the camp fallout should be on the misbehaving players, not Walters.
“I feel really disappointed that these people haven’t understood the enormity of the privilege they were granted,” he said.
“If they broke those rules then they need to suffer the consequences.
“They represent the state of Queensland, it was a privilege to be chosen in an Emerging Origin squad.
“It’s not their God given right.
“That Queensland jumper needs to be protected, so whatever punishment they get is fine by me.”
Asked if Walters had big shoes to fill as Maroons coach, Close said: “I don’t think so. Mal did his job and others did it before him.
“Now it’s Kevvie’s turn and so far he has done everything right.”