Queensland coach Kevin Walters says the decision to axe several long-standing members of the Maroons staff is unfortunate but necessary.
Walters has taken little time to put his stamp on the Maroons, telling coaching assistants Jason Hetherington and Michael Hagan, physiotherapist Scott Thornton and doctor Roy Saunders they aren’t needed for this year’s State of Origin campaign.
Saunders has been Queensland’s team doctor since 1993 while Hetherington, Hagan and Thornton were all key parts of Mal Meninga’s backroom during the Maroon’s decade of dominance under the new Kangaroos coach.
Walters says the call to cut the quartet was not easy, but he feels it will create a new atmosphere in the team’s preparations for this year’s series.
“It’s very unfortunate because those guys were great and worked extremely well with that Queensland side, particularly Dr Roy Saunders – he’s been there for 20 odd years,” Walters told Triple M Brisbane.
“I just felt that we needed a bit of a change with some fresh faces around the place.
“That’s no disrespect to those guys … I’ve worked with them in Mal’s team and they were great servants to Queensland and that was very difficult for me I have to say.”
It’s believed ex-Queensland captains Trevor Gillmeister and Allan Langer have been retained as members of Walter’s coaching team.
The Queensland Rugby League is reportedly attempting to cut team expenses so it’s unclear if the four positions will all be replaced under Walters.
Hagan had previously stated in December he believed that the Maroons would benefit from being challenged after winning nine of the past 10 series under Meninga.