Walters rejects call for Tongans in Origin

Qld coach Kevin Walters has rejected NSW coach Brad Fittler's call to alter Origin eligibility.
Qld coach Kevin Walters has rejected NSW coach Brad Fittler's call to alter Origin eligibility.

Queensland coach Kevin Walters has dismissed Brad Fittler's call for State of Origin eligibility to be relaxed this year so Tongans can play.

Walters says self isolation may be getting the better of his NSW counterpart.

The Maroons mentor has also rejected moves for the inter-state series to kick-start rugby league after the coronavirus shutdown because it would be played in empty stadiums.

Blues coach Fittler raised eyebrows on the weekend when he called for Origin rules to be tweaked so Tongan players could represent either state after the Mate Ma'a's June 20 Test with New Zealand was postponed due to the pandemic.

Fittler backed the concept, even if it meant Tongan juggernaut Jason Taumalolo - who plays for NRL club North Queensland - running out for the Maroons.

But Walters was left shaking his head.

"I think the isolation is getting to Freddy (Fittler) a little bit," he told Sky Sports Radio.

"Taumalolo is a great player but he's pledged his allegiance to Tonga.

"We have enough great Maroon young fellas coming through.

"We are happy with who we have available for this year's series."

Walters said he had a team that "virtually pick themselves" but still predicted some new faces for Queensland when the series eventually commenced.

He revealed young Brisbane forwards Thomas Flegler and Pat Carrigan were in the mix along with Canberra's Corey Horsburgh.

Walters also hinted that Cowboys fullback Valentine Holmes - in his return campaign from his 2019 NFL sojourn - would be slotted into a new-look Maroons backline after centre Will Chambers' rugby union defection.

"His form for the Cowboys was not overly great but I did see some nice touches from him," Walters said of Holmes, who scored eight tries in five Origins before his NFL adventure.

"Once he gets that (errors) sorted he can get back to being the player we know he can be."

Meanwhile, Walters did not support the new innovation committee reportedly looking at Origin re-launching the season in front of no fans due to public gathering restrictions amid the pandemic.

"I believe Origin's best position is somewhere in mid-competition or possibly at the end," Walters said.

"If you put it at the end of the competition surely by then the fans would be back in their droves.

"For mine that is what really drives Origin, it's the fans, their passion."

Australian Associated Press