Reece Walsh and Brandon Smith learn NRL fates amid fears over Las Vegas spectacle

The move comes amid concerns a number of stars would not be allowed to enter the USA.

Pictured left to right, NRL stars Reece Walsh and Brandon Smith will both be featuring in the Las Vegas match.
Reece Walsh and Brandon Smith have both been notified about their visa applications ahead of the NRL double-header in Las Vegas. Pic: Getty

The NRL has scored a massive win after reports star players Reece Walsh and Brandon Smith are among those cleared to travel to the United States for next month's blockbuster Las Vegas double-header. Walsh and Smith were among a number of NRL players summoned to appear at the US Embassy for interviews this week that would decide whether or not they'd be granted visas to enter the United States for the historic round one spectacle.

Walsh's Broncos are set to take on Smith's Roosters at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on March 3 (AEDT), after the Manly Sea Eagles and South Sydney Rabbitohs kick off the new season at the same ground. The showpiece double-header is the NRL's first foray into the United States and an opportunity for the sport to tap into the lucrative American market.

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Brisbane's Walsh is one of the biggest draw-cards in the NRL and it would have represented a massive blow to the code if some of the game's best players were refused entry into the USA. However, such fears have been put to bed after reports the NRL, Broncos and Roosters were informed on Friday that Walsh and Smith had been given the all clear.

The news will come as a massive relief to the players, clubs and fans, as well as ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys, who touted Walsh as one of the biggest selling points to America. The electrifying fullback established himself as one of the biggest and most exciting talents in the NRL in 2023 and he has already been doing his bit to spruik the Las Vegas venture, featuring in a brilliant promotional moment with NFL legend Tom Brady recently.

NRL stars cleared for historic Las Vegas spectacle

Walsh was among those under a cloud to travel to the States because of a past police infringement, when he was arrested on the Gold Coast and charged with drug possession in 2021. The 21-year-old was slapped with a good behaviour bond and a $400 fine but avoided a conviction.

Smith was made to front the US Embassy over an arrest more than 10 years ago while he was playing in North Queensland as a 16-year-old. The Roosters hooker has previously spoken out being locked up after pushing a police officer at a house party, before seeing his junior contract torn up by the Cowboys. Smith knuckled down and focused on his footy and was afforded a second chance after being re-signed by North Queensland.

The visa developments around Smith and Walsh come after Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell revealed on Thursday that he'd been given a green light to make the trip to Las Vegas. Mitchell and his sidelined new Rabbitohs teammate Jack Wighton faced court last year over a Canberra scuffle in February but saw charges against them dropped after a police officer involved in their arrest admitted to giving false testimony in court.

“I’m happy mate, great process,” Mitchell told the Sydney Morning Herald after being cleared for Vegas. “[It was] pretty quick in there. We’re approved and ready to go. Can’t wait for Vegas. I’m happy and ready to go. Vegas is great and fresh eyes I get to play in front of, so let’s go.”

Latrell Mitchell is one of a number of South Sydney players cleared to travel to Las Vegas after having to front the US Embassy. Pic: Getty
Latrell Mitchell is one of a number of South Sydney players cleared to travel to Las Vegas after having to front the US Embassy. Pic: Getty

Mitchell's teammates Wighton, Cody Walker and Michael Chee Kam, as well as assistant coach John Sutton were also cleared to travel to the USA with the South Sydney squad. So too has star Manly recruit Luke Brooks, who was summoned to front the US Embassy over an incident in Sydney in 2017. Brooks was reportedly arrested but released without charge after allegedly being attacked by a group of men, following altercations at two seperate Balmain pubs.

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