Billy Slater disagrees with Kevin Walters in telling call on Reece Walsh for State of Origin

The Maroons coach expects Walsh to play his game.

Billy Slater has dismissed suggestions he should rope in gun fullback Reece Walsh as the Maroons star's flashes of brilliance continue to be somewhat overshadowed by his host of errors. In Brisbane's shock 36-34 defeat to the Gold Coast on Sunday, Walsh's breathtaking speed and agility were on full display but so was his poor handling and decision-making.

Walsh had two try assists, seven tackle breaks and two line breaks to go with 182 run metres but also made three errors that proved incredibly costly. Brisbane coach Kevin Walters had previously warned the fullback that he needs to "take a chill pill" and play what is in front of him after a host of errors in Brisbane's 40-18 loss to the Roosters earlier this month. "Walshy needs to take a chill pill and just relax himself and get himself into the game," Walters said earlier this month.

Billy Slater says he wants Reece Walsh to play his game after Kevin Walters told his star man to take a chill pill in the Origin arena. Image: Getty
Billy Slater says he wants Reece Walsh to play his game after Kevin Walters told his star man to take a chill pill in the Origin arena. Image: Getty

"As the game develops and unfolds, that is when his skillset will come to the fore. Nothing happens overnight. (Players like Walsh) are young in the NRL and still learning about the game in different situations in games, with the scoreboard and time clock. Last week was a great learning experience for everyone."

But despite the calls to shackle Walsh, Slater holds a vastly different opinion to Walters. When asked about his approach with the star fullback on Monday, the Maroons coach said he wants nothing less than the fullback's regular livewire approach. "I want 'the Reece Walsh', I want him," Slater said.

"He's a wonderful player, and we want the best Reece Walsh that he can be. There will be no pills in our camp."

While Darren Lockyer says Walsh's errors come with his youthful game and they will gradually dissipate with time and more experience. "It's just time in the seat. You start to relax a bit more once you have been there a bit longer," Lockyer said following the Broncos' loss.

"We talk about what Reece brings to the game and everyone loves what he brings. He brings entertainment, he brings spark and energy and sometimes the first thing he needs to focus on is his job for the team and not the other stuff."


Last year Walsh was a standout at fullback for the Maroons after being called into the team in Ponga's absence after the Knights No.1 prioritised his club duties as he recovered from a series of bad concussions. And with Ponga sidelined through injury, selecting Walsh was a no-brainer.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 31: Maroons coach Billy Slater and Reece Walsh of the Maroons celebrate winning game one of the 2023 State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and New South Wales Blues at Adelaide Oval on May 31, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
In 2023 Reece Walsh was a standout at fullback after being called into the team in Kalyn Ponga's absence.

Speaking ahead of Game I, Slater was full of praise for Walsh. "Reece brings a whole heap. I have really enjoyed working with Reece over the last couple of years, to be honest," Slater said.

"It has been a long journey and I have loved seeing the rise (of Walsh) and not just the brilliant stuff that he brings but also that he has elevated his game. He has a real good foundation to his footy now and I am looking forward to seeing him when he comes into camp."