Leaving the country has provided no respite from the fallout over the Emerging Origin camp controversy for besieged Queensland coach Kevin Walters.
In New Zealand ahead of this weekend’s NRL Auckland Nines, Walters on Thursday was hit with claims that the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) had covered up Ben Hunt reportedly confessing to also breaking curfew at the now infamous camp.
Flanked by TV reporters, a clearly fed-up Walters offered a “no comment” when asked if the star Broncos halfback was among the players who ignored his orders and left the weekend camp to go out drinking in Brisbane.
Cronulla’s Valentine Holmes and Melbourne’s Cameron Munster are the only players to have officially been caught breaking curfew, copping a 12-month State of Origin ban.
But News Corp Australia reported on Thursday that eight others also left camp and Munster now felt like a “scapegoat” and was considering appealing his ban.
QRL managing director Robert Moore told AAP he would address Munster’s concerns with Melbourne boss Dave Donaghy in Auckland on Friday however he all but ruled out lifting the young gun’s suspension.
The fallout does not look like dying down – even across the Tasman – any time soon, now with superstar Hunt implicated.
The Nine Network claimed Hunt was among up to eight others to have broken curfew and later admitted it to QRL officials.
They said a sober Dale Copley had helped ferry fellow emerging players including Anthony Milford, Chris Grevsmuhl and Dylan Napa to Brisbane hotels in his car on Saturday night after Walters told the squad to go to bed.
The Sydney Roosters’ Copley had only a week earlier been spotted in Mitchell Pearce’s now infamous Australia Day bender video.
Contrary to QRL chairman Peter Betros, who considered their camp investigation closed, Moore told AAP their probe was “still ongoing”.
News Corp reported on Thursday Munster would consider an appeal if other players weren’t identified and banned by the QRL.
But asked if there was an avenue for appeal, Moore said: “It’s not something that has even been considered at the moment.
“The camp is a program that we run and believe should be treated seriously – it is important to us.
“And it (banning players) is a position we have made in the past.”
Newcastle’s Dane Gagai copped a 12-month Origin suspension for missing a training session at the 2014 camp.
The weekend camp was Walters’ first official event as Maroons coach.
It was a tough start for Walters, attempting to fill the big shoes left behind by the all-conquering Mal Meninga.
Moore said he felt for Walters.
“I am very disappointed for Kevin, just three weeks into his coaching job,” he said.
“Some players have made a poor choice after a discussion in the camp about values and making the right decision.”
Queensland legend Chris Close backed Walters.
“Kevvie has done everything right – there should be no slur on his coaching,” he told AAP.
NSW coach Laurie Daley also offered his support.
“He is a good mate and I am sure he’d be disappointed in what occurred,” he said in Auckland.