Cronk and Thurston to help Maroons preparation: Walters
The two missing pieces from Queensland's all-conquering Holden State of Origin side won't be absent for long.
Cooper Cronk will join Johnathan Thurston in being invited back into Maroons camp as consultants in the same way Billy Slater worked with the back five two years ago as he recovered from shoulder surgery.
"We'll be picking their brains. We don't know what their clubs think, but we'd like to use both of them in some way," Walters told NRL.com about tapping into the considerable Origin intelligence of Cronk-Thurston.
"They've both retired from Origin now, so I need to find out if their clubs are keen to release them to our training camps," he added, referring to the Sydney Roosters and North Queensland Cowboys.
The Queensland under-18 coach for the past two years, Josh Hannay, is filling the Maroons assistant coaching role left vacant by the elevation of Anthony Seibold to head coach at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
"We're always interested in those recently retired, or if they're injured, players to come in and spread their wisdom. They are invaluable, those blokes.
"So we'll use Cooper and JT in some capacity. I just haven't nutted that out just yet."
Walters and Australian coach Mal Meninga were in agreement that Cameron Munster's cards weren't marked for future Origin and Test teams after his scuffle with Ben Hunt in the Kangaroos World Cup camp.
"Nothing untoward happened there. He was just being a young person, really," Meninga told NRL.com.
"In that environment, he just over-stepped the mark and hopefully he'll learn from that. We all go through it, and that's the conversation I had with him basically.
"He couldn't be in a better system there at Melbourne and I'm hearing his off-season has been excellent with Storm and he's been really enthusiastic. He can play a good game – he's a real footballer.
"He's just young and still finding his feet as far as a person is concerned. It's about growth and maturity and we've all been there.''
Walters said Munster, who played his first two Tests in last year's World Cup, was also in his plans.
"[The incident] really had nothing to do with me, but he's got good mentors in senior players at Storm and Craig Bellamy is as good as anyone in bringing players around. I don't see that as being as any problem," Walters said.
Munster has already run foul of Walters for being one of eight players who broke curfew on the 2016 Emerging Maroons camp. He and others including Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt, Jarrod Wallace, Dylan Napa and Valentine Holmes were given 12-month bans from Origin. They all played in the 2017 series.
Coincidently, Hunt, Munster and Milford are in the mix with Daly Cherry-Evans, Corey Norman and Ash Taylor to fill the Cronk-Thurston vacancies.
The one sure thing is Michael Morgan will be there after helping to steer an injury-ravaged North Queensland Cowboys into the 2017 grand final.
"He finished so strongly last year, so Michael will be in the team somewhere…. just exactly where we place him is too early to call," Walters said.
"We know he has good form on the board at No.7 but he's played No.6 outside Johnathan superbly too. And we've great depth in the halves, so plenty of good options.
"The challenge now is to show us they're in good form and good touch once the season starts."
Meninga, who coached Queensland for 10 years before taking over the Australian job from Tim Sheens, threw another name into the mix.
"That Brodie Croft from Storm is coming along nicely," Meninga said.
"It's not the on-field that is the difficult thing, it is the off-field decisions [selectors] have to make. And by that I mean that Michael Morgan must be one of the halves so he'll have a big say in the game plan and who he'd like with him.
"Cameron Smith and Billy [Slater] would also have input as will John [Thurston] as part of the coaching staff. Those guys and selectors have to decide the style of play they want and who fits into that best."