Queensland captain Cameron Smith says the eight Emerging Origin players banned from this year’s series showed a “lack of respect” for new coach Kevin Walters by sneaking out of camp to drink against orders.
But neither he nor Greg Inglis believe it will have a negative impact on the team’s depth.
Speaking about the controversy for the first time, Smith said he was fully behind Walters’ decision to exclude the group, headed by gun Brisbane halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt and Roosters firebrand Dylan Napa, from Origin selection.
“At the end of the day it showed a lack of respect for the coach, a lack of respect for the guys who had been there a long time and built a successful system, who have played in the jersey before us like Wally (Lewis),” Smith told reporters on Tuesday.
Inglis agreed, saying Walters “did the right thing” by suspending the players.
“If you want to put that Maroon jersey on then you’ve got to do the right things,” Inglis said.
“It’s an unfortunate event that happened but it had to be done.”
Smith was one of a handful of senior players, along with Johnathan Thurston, who Walters personally consulted before handing down the toughest punishments in the 15-year history of the Queensland Emerging Origin program.
“I think we were all of the same opinion he had to make a tough stand,” Smith said.
“Those young guys will be regretting what they did, (but) let’s understand apart from one guy, there wasn’t any serious laws were broken.
“But it was against team rules, I was told it was made very clear.”
It won’t be the last time Walters leans on Queensland’s older guard for guidance as the Maroons enter the post-Meninga era, either.
“He’s not Mal Meninga and he has his own style, his own approach to how he wants to handle the squad,” Smith said.
“He’s a smart guy, he’s not going to go in there and try and do it all himself, he’s got some experienced players in that squad and he will be guided by our thoughts.
“But he will make the decisions when he needs to make them.”
Smith curtly shut down any suggestions the bans might make it tougher for Queensland to retain the Origin shield.
Milford and Hunt were indeed on the verge of selection last year, while there were calls for Napa to join the Maroons’ aging pack as early as game one.
“We have plenty of quality players,” Smith said.
Inglis was equally assured.
“I don’t think depth will be a problem at all. There definitely will be plenty waiting for their chance,” he said.