FIRST GAME IN CHARGE: Kevin Walters.
FIRST GAME IN CHARGE: Kevin Walters. Bradley Kanaris

Do not compare Walters with Mal

QUEENSLAND skipper Cameron Smith has urged fans not to compare rookie coach Kevin Walters with Maroons legend Mal Meninga.

Walters makes his debut tomorrow night as Queensland coach after Origin's most successful mentor Meninga, who, in Hollywood terms, is a "hard act to follow".

"Kevvy shouldn't be compared to Mal (Meninga)," Smith said.

"He is his own style of coach and he hasn't tried to tinker with too much given what we have been able to achieve over the last 10 years."

Walters will face his first major call when he makes a huge decision on whether halfback Cooper Cronk plays after badly spraining his ankle four days ago.

Smith admitted he and his players wanted to give Meninga's former assistant the perfect start to his time in charge, but stressed it was not their focus, which was to run out on to ANZ Stadium tomorrow night and play to the best of their ability.

Meninga, who took over the reins of a struggling Queensland side in 2006, won eight straight series, and nine of the past 10, before taking over from Tim Sheens as coach of the Australian Kangaroos.

However, Walters was the Queensland Rugby League's second choice.

They tried to get North Queensland's premiership-winner Paul Green, who turned down the position under pressure from his club to focus totally on the Cowboys' NRL title defence.

Smith said Walters had the team's complete support.

"I know all the players would like to get him away to a good start and have a win in Sydney," he said. "But if we don't, it's game one (of the series) and there are two more to go.

"Our thoughts aren't about getting Kevvy off to a good start, we just want to play well as a team and put the team in a good position for the series."



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