Anthony Milford under fire for Reece Walsh hit amid 'Hammer' blow for Dolphins in NRL

The Dolphins fullback went off in concerning scenes during the drama-charged game.

Anthony Milford has sparked backlash across the NRL world after an off-the-ball hit on Reece Walsh during the Dolphins' defeat to Brisbane on Friday night. The 28-14 loss for the Dolphins was compounded by a worrying injury to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow that saw the fullback exit the game in the first half. And the Dolphins could also be sweating on a potential ban for Milford after he was put on report for a hit on Walsh.

The incident came late in the first half when the Dolphins allowed a Broncos bomb to bounce and Kotoni Staggs retrieved the ball, only to be later called back for an off-side. As the Broncos played on, Walsh was wiped out by Milford off the ball and lay on the Suncorp Stadium turf before replays shed light on what happened.

Pictured left to right is Reece Walsh, Anthony Milford and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Reece Walsh was hit off the ball by Anthony Milford as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow suffered a worrying injury for the Dolphins in the NRL defeat to Brisbane. Pic: Getty/Nine

Milford seemed to be anticipating a pass from Staggs back to Walsh on the inside and put a massive shot on the Broncos fullback, who returned to the NRL earlier than expected for the 'Battle of Brisbane' after suffering a fractured cheekbone against Penrith in round three. Walsh - who was wearing special white protective head gear due to the injury - didn't even receive the ball before being smashed by Milford in the ribs.

The incident came after injured Broncos skipper Adam Reynolds insisted Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett wouldn't instruct his players to target Walsh after his facial injury. Reynolds played for Bennett at the Rabbitohs and said before the match that the master coach always focuses on player safety for both his team and the opposition.

“That was totally unnecessary from Milford — it's a brain explosion,” league great Paul Vautin said about Milford's hit on Nine's coverage.. “He didn’t have to.” Fellow commentator Peter Psaltis suggested it should have resulted in a sin bin for Milford after asking: “Did he find himself fortunate he was able to stay on the field?”

Vautin said even though the offside against Staggs came before the hit on Walsh, the Dolphins player could consider himself lucky for not going to the bin. And fans agreed, with some calling it a "dog shot" from Milford and questioning how he remained on the field. “The illegal play came second in that case but I’m surprised he didn’t get binned,” Vautin added.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow injury compounds Dolphins' loss

A sell-out crowd of 46,224 at Suncorp Stadium was treated to an arm wrestle in the first half, with Jarrod Wallace's opening try for the Dolphins cancelled out by Xavier Willison's four-pointer for Brisbane. But the Dolphins hopes took a massive hit when Maroons Origin star Tabuai-Fidow hobbled off with a hamstring injury in the 21st minute that looks like it will sideline him for a number of weeks.

Pictured centre, Dolphins fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow watches from the sidelines after hobbling off against Brisbane with a hamstring injury.
Dolphins fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow watches from the sidelines after hobbling off against Brisbane with a hamstring injury in the first half. Pic: AAP

'Hammer' has been arguably the Dolphins' best player this season and his absence was felt as Brisbane broke the game open with four tries in 14 minutes in the second half. Three of them came from Dolphins errors, with Walsh racing the length of the field to score and centre Selwyn Cobbo scoring a double to put the result beyond doubt.

Jack Bostock and Jamayne Isaako scored late consolation tries for the Dolphins but it did little to brighten the mood after the injury to Tabuai-Fidow. "Hammer (Tabuai-Fidow) told me he hasn't had a hamstring injury for a while, but it's not good. He could be gone for three or four weeks," Dolphins Bennett said after the game.

It's another cruel blow for the injury-hit Dolphins, who have already lost Maroons forward Tom Gilbert for the rest of the season with an ACL injury. Second-rower Felise Kaufusi (hamstring) and England centre Herbie Farnworth (shoulder) are both unlikely to be available for the next match against the Eels, while utility Kurt Donoghoe is suspended until round eight. Second-rower Connelly Lemuelu (knee) is not expected back for a fortnight, while Maroons prop Thomas Flegler (shoulder) is also in doubt for the game at Parramatta in round seven.

with AAP