NRL's bombshell call on Taylan May after Kevin Walters slams Reece Walsh incident

The Panthers centre left Reece Walsh reeling after an ugly collision.

NRL head of football Graham Annesley says he believes the match review committee made a mistake by not charging Penrith star Taylan May over his head clash with Broncos star Reece Walsh. The Brisbane superstar suffered a fractured eye socket and faces several weeks on the sideline after May rushed out of the line to tackle the fullback, but accidentally collided heads with Walsh.

The match review committee reviewed the incident and decided that no charges would be laid against May, in a decision that angered Brisbane coach Kevin Walters and many fans. Speaking at his weekly press briefing on Monday afternoon though, Annesley said the NRL did not agree with the decision on May, and argued that the Penrith player's action were at the very least careless and therefore warranted a charge.

The NRL believes Panthers centre Taylan May should have been charged for reckless contact after his head clash with Broncos star Reece Walsh. Pic: AAP
The NRL believes Panthers centre Taylan May should have been charged for reckless contact after his head clash with Broncos star Reece Walsh. Pic: AAP

“The match review committee in our understanding reached their conclusion of no further action on the basis that it was an accidental head clash and as such didn’t reach the threshold for reckless or careless action,” Annesley said. “The match review committee is an independent process and the NRL plays no part in that. The view of the (NRL) administration on this is we do think it did reach (the threshold of) careless action at least.”

Annesley's admission will come as cold comfort to Walters, who lashed out after May escaped punishment for the sickening incident with Walsh. The reigning champions thumped the Broncos 34-12 on Thursday night with the visiting side missing Adam Reynolds and Payne Haas for the NRL grand final rematch.

Walsh went down injured in the opening minutes and never returned to the game after experiencing trouble with his vision. Follow-up scans later revealed the 21-year-old suffered a facial fracture and will out of action between 4-6 weeks.

Kevin Walters reacts and Taylan May tackles Reece Walsh.
Kevin Walters (pictured left) has questioned the duty of care for players after Taylan May escaped a ban for his tackle on Reece Walsh (pictured right). (Getty Images/Fox Sports)

Kevin Walters 'confused' as Taylan May escapes charge

Debate raged over whether May deserved to be punished for the careless collision with Walsh. And Walters believes player safety needs to be taken more seriously. "I'm a bit confused about the rules you know, where's the duty of care for our players?" Walters asked.

"Reece is going to miss four-to-six weeks. There was contact to the head, which is duty of care. If the NRL are serious about concussions and protecting players, where does this sit with that? Where does it sit with that, NRL?"

Walters said he would not drop the issue, fearing other teams will target his fullback after this incident. "I'm certainly not a sore loser. But what I am very strong on is the protection of our players," Walters said. "If this is let go, next time Reece Walsh comes back on the field what are they going to do again?"

After the game, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary claimed the incident was an accident and he wasn't concerned May would miss any games. "No-one wants to see the best players go off, but I just saw it as an accident," Cleary said. "I thought he was trying to pull out of the tackle, he was directly upright, which is not how you tackle.

"If he had of bent down, he probably would have hit him in the head with his shoulder. Reece Walsh moves pretty fast, these things happen. I'm not too concerned about that."

Reece Walsh looks on.
Reece Walsh (pictured) could miss 4-6 weeks after a facial fracture. (Jason McCawley via Getty Images)

NRL greats divided on Taylan May incident

On Channel Nine commentary, former Sharks forward Paul Gallen agreed and claimed it was an unfortunate collision. But Brad Fittler and Johnathan Thurston strongly disagreed. Fittler said: "I understand it's an accident."

"But when you come in on someone's blind side you are responsible to tackle below their shoulders. You are totally responsible because you can see. It's contact above the shoulders. You can control how high you tackle."

Thurston added: "You've got a duty of care. And you can tell he hasn't even gone in for a tackle. You've got to lower your target. When you come in like that you've got to lower your target."

Kevin Walters bemoans bench selection against Panthers

Walsh's injury left the Broncos reeling as Walters had no outside back cover on his bench. The coach opted not to select Tristan Sailor on the bench having made him 18th man. And the coach has now admitted the Broncos will need to make sure someone on the bench will have the ability to cover the backline in case of injury.


“We’ve got Tristan Sailor parked there as 18th man but he can’t come into the game, so we won’t be doing that again,” Walters said in the aftermath of the brutal loss. “Well, we have to (have him on our bench), because if you lose some of those outside backs, it’s a specialist position, fullback.

“Anyway, I’m not blaming that, we just didn’t handle the situation well. All clubs face it at different times and that’s probably the first time this group have had to face it. We’ll be better too as coaches to make sure we get more training in that position where he’s (Walsh) not there.”

The news is not good for Walsh after it was thought he he initially escaped a facial fracture. The 21-year-old won't be able to fly back to Brisbane and will need to be driven instead. The Broncos haven't provided a recovery time, which will be determined after Walsh visits with a specialist.