Kevin Walters fires back after Broncos fans left filthy over Reece Walsh and Payne Haas move

Brisbane's season hangs in the balance after their selection gamble backfired.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters has hit back at critics who questioned his decision to rest State of Origin stars Reece Walsh, Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan for Brisbane's 32-16 loss to the Warriors on Saturday. It was the Broncos' fourth consecutive defeat and sees them drop out of the top-eight into 10th spot on the ladder, leaving their NRL finals hopes hanging in the balance.

Things don't get any easier for Walters' side, who next face defending premiers Penrith in a grand final rematch at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night. The Panthers will be desperate to bounce back after suffering a shock loss to North Queensland at home on Sunday and the Broncos also have a mounting injury toll to contend with, after Jack Gosiewski (arm) and Fletcher Baker (knee) became the latest players ruled out for Brisbane during the loss to the Warriors.

Seen in these images are Broncos coach Kevin Walters and stars Reece Walsh and Payne Haas.
Broncos coach Kevin Walters copped criticism for resting Origin stars Reece Walsh, Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan as Brisbane lost to the Warriors. Pic: Getty

The Broncos have crashed to 10th on the ladder and the battle for finals spots is getting more intense, with two points currently separating the Bulldogs in 5th down to Canberra in 12th spot. With wins so crucial at this time of year - especially for teams like Brisbane who are always affected at Origin time - fans were scathing of Walters' decision to rest his rep stars in Saturday's defeat.

Many felt the Broncos couldn't afford to give Walsh, Haas and Carrigan a rest, especially considering they've also been rocked by injuries to Adam Reynolds, Corey Oates and Jordan Riki. Haas and Carrigan have done plenty of work over the last few months, but many questioned why Walsh didn't play against the Warriors considering he hadn't played in three weeks before Origin 2 in Melbourne.

The fact the Broncos had to travel to New Zealand ultimately forced Walters' hand but the gamble failed to pay off and now the Broncos' hopes of finishing in the top eight are that much harder. The Brisbane coach is not about to hit the panic button though and fired back at the selection criticism after pointing out he rested players at this point last season.

"I think it is a really smart decision," Walters said. "There's still nine rounds left in the competition. They've still got to get through another Origin game yet. I'm just looking after them and putting them first. We know if they get through this period it's full steam ahead. We did the same thing last year. Didn't seem to bother anyone too much last year. No one noticed. Funny that."


The big difference of course is that the Broncos were in the top two at this stage last year and could afford to potentially drop points without it affecting their finals hopes. This year, they are scrapping for a top-eight spot and may need to win six from their remaining nine games to make the finals - meaning Walters may not have the luxury of resting anyone for the round 20 game at Newcastle - three days after the Origin decider.

Pictured left is Brisbane Broncos star Reece Walsh.
Reece Walsh was among those rested as the Broncos suffered a brutal loss to the Warriors. Image: AAP/Getty

That match comes after a round 19 game against the eighth-placed Dragons when Brisbane will be missing their Origin stars. While Walters will welcome back Walsh, Haas and Carrigan for Friday night's home showdown against Penrith, he'll also be without prop Ben Te Kura (foot) and second-rowers Riki (suspended) and Jaiyden Hunt (hand) - leaving him with just seven middle and edge forwards to pick from in a serious test of the club's depth.

"It does affect your depth. That's probably the most concerning thing from the (Warriors) game is two more long-term injuries,"Walters said in reference to the Gosiewski and Baker setbacks. "So it does make a difference." But the Broncos coach insists his side is "definitely" still on track to finish inside the top eight by the end of the season.

"If you have a good look at the table there are a few teams like us behind the leaders and all in the race," he added. "I expect us to get ourselves together sooner rather than later with some really strong performances leading into the finals."

with AAP