NSW coach Laurie Daley has commended Queensland counterpart Kevin Walters for axing eight misbehaving players from this year’s State of Origin series – but stopped short of saying he’ll follow suit and dump Mitchell Pearce.
Just weeks into his reign as successor to the great Mal Meninga, Walters banished a cast of young guns – including classy Brisbane halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt – for breaking curfew in January at an Emerging Maroons camp.
Walters admitted it was a gut-wrenching but straightforward decision as he sought to retain Queensland’s winning culture that had yielded nine Origin series triumphs in the past 10 years.
“I think people forget that these camps have been going on for 10, 15 years, I believe,” Walters said on Wednesday night on Fox Sports’ NRL 360.
“Actually, Wayne (Bennett) set them up many years ago and there has been players over the years miss camp and been banned for the Origin series, so this year was no different.
“We had a few boys who thought it was a good idea to sneak out.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t, for them.
“It was a bad time for me having to ring up all those guys because I’ve got good relations with them.
“But they broke the rules and unfortunately they’ve got to pay the price for it, as disappointing as it is.”
Daley conceded on the same program he was quietly chuffed that the likes of Milford, Hunt and Sydney Roosters forward Dylan Napa had been removed from the Maroons’ selection contention.
“There’s some quality (missing), but it’s a sign of a strong leader when they make those decisions,” the Blues’ coach said.
“It’s not a popularity contest. You’ve got to make the best decisions in the right interests of the team and Kevvie’s laid down the law straight away and everyone knows where they stand straight away.
“There’s no grey area there anymore and that puts the other players on notice as well and he’s to be congratulated for it.”
Daley, though, is refusing to follow Walters’ hardline stance and won’t rule out persevering with Pearce – who has yet to win an Origin series in six attempts – if the Roosters playmaker is available in 2016.
Pearce is awaiting his punishment for his drunken Australia Day antics.
“Obviously, the Mitchell one is up in the air at the moment because my main concern all the way through it, ever since the story broke, was about Mitchell’s welfare,” Daley said.
“I want to make sure he’s okay, he’s in the right head space. And it was good to see Mitch over the last 24 hours put his hand up, admit his mistake and say he’ll cop whatever punishment comes his way.
“He’s very remorseful, he’s blaming no one else and I think he’s to be congratulated for that.
“He’s owned up and where Mitch sits in the picture will obviously be determined over the next week or so.”