Kevin Walters lashes out over Joseph Suaalii's suspension for Origin hit on Reece Walsh

Walters believe the Roosters star deserved more than a four-week suspension.

Kevin Walters has taken aim at the NRL for not being hard enough on Joseph Suaalii arguing he deserved a much harsher ban than just four matches for knocking Reece Walsh unconscious during State of Origin I. The Roosters centre had a horror debut that lasted just seven minutes as he was sent off for a high shot on Walsh after the Queensland fullback had passed the ball.

In the tackle Walsh's head snapped back viciously and it also thudded into the ground on the way down as he appeared to lose consciousness for a brief period. He was immediately ruled out of the game with a Category 1 concussion, and Suaalii was given his marching orders as a result.

Kevin Walters believes Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii deserved a much harsher ban than just four matches for knocking Reece Walsh out in State of Origin Game I. Image: Getty
Kevin Walters believes Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii deserved a much harsher ban than just four matches for knocking Reece Walsh out in State of Origin Game I. Image: Getty

Following the match, the Roosters centre - who is leaving the NRL for rugby union at the end of the season -was slapped with a four-game ban. The ban means he will likely not pull on a Blues jersey again this year as he will be suspended for Game II and won't play another game before the NSW team is picked for Game III. Walsh will likely be fit for Game II but will not play for the Broncos until Round 17 at the earliest. This is due to the Category 1 ruling automatically triggering an 11-day stand-down period in which a concussed player isn't allowed to play.

Walters says Walsh also most likely won't play the Round 17 match against New Zealand given the short turnaround from Origin II on the Wednesday prior. And the Broncos coach is furious that Walsh will therefore only likely play one match for his club before Suaalii finishes serving his ban.

"The NRL have got to protect him, that's who's got to protect him and be harder on the suspensions," he said. "Four weeks for what he actually did, Reece will be missing for us for four weeks. (A four-week ban) is not going to deter another player from coming out next time Reece plays and trying to take his head out again."

Walters also noted that it is the second time this season that the Broncos have lost Walsh due to an opponent flying out of the defensive line to put a hit on him. Penrith centre Taylan May escaped suspension for a head clash that left the 21-year-old with a facial fracture in round three. It meant Walsh spent a couple of weeks on the sidelines and had to return with headgear.

Following Origin I, Queensland assistant coaches Johnathan Thurston and Nate Myles took aim at NSW, accusing the Blues of deliberately targeting Walsh. The Maroons fullback only touched the ball twice and was hit both times late.

"Everyone has seen it and it was unfortunate for Suaalii making his debut," Thurston said. "It was direct, forceful contact to the head and they clearly had a target on (Walsh) … the officials had no other option."

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05:  Reece Walsh of the Maroons is attended to by medical staff after been tackled by Joseph-Aukuso Sua'ali'i of the Blues during game one of the 2024 Men's State of Origin Series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 05, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Reece Walsh likely won't play another match until State of Origin Game II.

Walters refused to comment directly on the allegations but did, however, say the evidence is pretty clear. "That's twice now and the first time he didn't even get sin-binned or not even suspended, nothing," Walters said. "It's not right for me to try and feel what their plan was, but I saw what their actions were and that was the first block play of the game. You make your own mind up.

Walters was at least pleased to see Suaalii sent from the field for his hit. "It was policed well on Wednesday night but I just thought they could have gone a bit harder with the suspension," he said. "We want our great players to play and it's not about toughness because Reece is as tough as any player in the game. But four weeks for ironing a bloke out the way he did, that's not enough."


The Broncos will likely turn to replacement fullback Tristan Sailor for this weekend's match as he looks to make a return from a high ankle sprain that required surgery last month. Sailor had been expected to need between four and six weeks on the sidelines but has returned to the first-grade set-up less than a month after suffering the injury playing Queensland Cup. "He's been in here seven days a week for the last three weeks getting it right," Walters said.

with AAP