Mal Meninga says embattled Queensland coach Kevin Walters should walk into his first State of Origin camp with his “head held high”.
Meninga admitted Walters would be “feeling pretty down” after a nightmare start to his Maroons job.
Meninga said while Walters’ decision to ban eight players from Origin this year would make his job harder this year, he believed it was the right call.
Walters was forced to draw a line in the sand just weeks into his tenure after it emerged eight players defied his orders and broke curfew at a recent Emerging Origin camp in Brisbane.
Valentine Holmes and Cameron Munster were initially suspended when news first broke of the controversy.
Days later another six – Ben Hunt, Anthony Milford, Jarrod Wallace, Edrick Lee, Dylan Napa and Chris Grevsmuhl – copped bans when the Queensland Rugby League finally completed their probe.
Meninga had no problem with Walters after being forced to issue similar bans on Dane Gagai and Esi Tonga at past camps of his own.
“Kevin has had to make a tough decision here, and one that undoubtedly makes his job as coach harder, because some of those players would have been in line to play Origin this year,” Meninga told the Former Origin Greats website.
“The players should be embarrassed about their actions, not least of all because of the position they have put their coach in.
“I think Kevvie would be feeling pretty down about how the whole thing unfolded, but this was not a problem of his making.
“The rules were laid out for the players, and some of them decided to ignore them.”
Meninga hinted that Walters may forgive but not forget the behaviour of the eight players when naming a Queensland squad after the ban was lifted.
“Those types of things stay in the mind of a coach when he sits down to pick a team and needs to select players he knows he can trust and rely on to carry out instructions and get the job done,” he said.
“But I can tell you this, the ones who would have been just as disappointed about what happened would be the current members of the Queensland team, who have worked so hard to create and develop the culture and public image of the team.
“Seeing what they have created being treated with disrespect would not have pleased them.
“That is why I know when Kevvie walks into his first Origin camp with the Maroons this year, he can do so with his head held high, because he will have every single one of the Queensland players behind him and supporting him for what he did.”
Walters this year takes over from Meninga who was appointed Kangaroos coach after guiding Queensland to nine Origin series wins in 10 years.