Liam Martin sends pointed message to Reece Walsh amid storm over State of Origin 'targeting'

The furore around the Walsh incident has ramped up ahead of Origin Game 2.

NSW enforcer Liam Martin has warned Queensland to expect them to target Maroons fullback Reece Walsh again during Game 2 of the State of Origin series at the MCG. Martin admits the Blues got it wrong in Game 1 after Joseph Suaalii was sent off after just seven minutes for a high shot on Walsh, but insists his side never went into the game with the intention of hurting the Maroons superstar or illegally taking him out.

Walsh - who is set to return for QLD at the MCG after missing the last two games for Brisbane due to the NRL's concussion protocols - once again looms as one of the biggest threats to NSW. And Martin makes no apologies for the fact his Blues side have identified the danger man and formulated strategies to limit his effectiveness.

NSW Blues enforcer Liam Martin says Maroons star Reece Walsh can expect to be targeted in State of Origin Game 2. Pic: Getty
NSW Blues enforcer Liam Martin says Maroons star Reece Walsh can expect to be targeted in State of Origin Game 2. Pic: Getty

Walsh was hit hard by Martin following the first kick of the game in the Origin series opener, before being floored by Suaalii's hit six minutes later. And while Martin concedes that his teammates will need to do a better job of controlling their aggression and playing within the laws of the game, he says Walsh can expect to be targeted like all the best players are.

"I treat it the exact same. It doesn't change," Martin said. "He's such a key for them so we'll be going after him. We're obviously not intentionally going there to hurt or injure him. It's part of the game. Nothing will change." Martin did concede there was "a fine line" between controlled aggression and foul play, but pointed out that accidents are part of footy.


"It is a fine line because it's a game of the barest margins," Martin added. If someone falls and you clip them high, otherwise it would've been a good shot. You try to be physical and, while accidents happen, you just try your best to not put yourself and others in those situations. I definitely wasn't out there to hurt him (with my kick pressure) or anything like that. It's just footy and you try to be physical."

Maroons greats and assistant coaches Johnathan Thurston and Nate Myles both suggested that NSW deliberately targeted Walsh in Game I. But NSW coach Michael Maguire angrily hit back at suggestions Suaalii went out to hurt the player and accused the Queenslanders of living in "glass houses" during a fiery spray on Monday.

The drama has set the scene for an explosive second game of the series in Melbourne on June 26. Martin says he's sure the Maroons will identify Blues players to target at the MCG and his NSW second-row partner Angus Crichton agreed, after making a point to defend his Roosters teammate Suaalii amid a wave of backlash.

"You've got to pressure anyone. It's wild that everyone's trying to say that we were trying to injure him," Crichton said about the Walsh incident. "It was a split decision that Joey got wrong, I hope Reece has recovered well. That's the sport, everyone has game plans where they figure out where they want to attack."

In the centre is NSW State of Origin coach Michael Maguire, with Johnathan Thurston on left and Reece Walsh right.
NSW coach Michael Maguire bristled at suggestions from the likes of QLD Origin great Johnathan Thurston that his Blues players set out to hurt Reece Walsh. Pic: Getty

NSW great Paul Gallen also weighed in on the drama this week and said it was "ridiculous" for anyone to suggest that players would deliberately hurt opponents with acts of foul play. Gallen said while Thurston and Myles didn't say that exactly, he believed it was heavily alluded to.

"I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to think in this day and age anybody would go out on the field and use foul play to take anyone out of the game," Gallen said on Nine's 100% Footy. “I’ve been involved in the game for more than 25 years now and not once in my entire time of NRL have I ever had a coach, manager, trainer or another player say 'let’s go out and get this bloke and do something to him to take him out of the game'.

“Particularly the way the game is refereed and ruled these days, how many cameras there are, (it) is absolutely insane (to think that). So I really hope the Queensland coaching staff wouldn’t be thinking that. I can’t believe in this day and age they think something like this would be going on.”

with AAP