Reece Walsh has been reduced to tears after revealing the influence his young daughter has had on his NRL career. The Broncos fullback has been in career-best form in 2023 after helping inspire the Maroons to a State of Origin series win and Brisbane to a charge towards Saturday night's preliminary final against his former club, the New Zealand Warriors.
Speaking ahead of Saturday night's crunch showdown at Suncorp Stadium, Walsh couldn't hold back the tears when talking about his two-year-old daughter Leila and the role she's played in his incredible season. "She has been awesome for me. She calms me down," the 21-year-old said ahead of Saturday night's preliminary final.
"Not everything is about footy and a job. When I am in the (Broncos) facility I am the footy player. When I step out and see my little one and my family, I am dad.
"It is pretty awesome. I am still so young but I feel if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be in this position. She is pretty awesome. I get emotional about it."
Walsh wears his heart on his sleeve out on the footy field, as evidenced by the foul-mouthed outburst towards referee Chris Butler that saw him slapped with a three-game at the back-end of the season. Following the incident, however, Walsh began seeing a sports psychologist and his actions on the field have been largely exemplary ever since.
"I want to be the best version of myself on and off the field and I want to be the best footy player I can be," Walsh said. "If I can (just) keep those things in check and stay disciplined and humble.
"I am lucky to have awesome people around me. When I am stepping out of line they pull me in line real quick. I just want to put my best foot forward with everything I do. If I can do those things, then I will be of value to this team."
Central to most things Walsh has done in 2023, has been the presence of his daughter Leila, who is rarely far from her dad's side. She was by his side at home when they the Warriors end Newcastle's season in last Saturday's semi-final victory that set up the preliminary final clash with Brisbane.
Reece Walsh's daughter helping to keep him 'grounded'
Walsh's daughter is often spotted with him in the sheds after the games or watching from the stands and the 21-year-old admits her calming influence cannot be underestimated. Walsh starred for the Broncos in their emphatic 26-0 thumping of the Storm in week one of the finals and revealed the role his daughter played in calming the nerves before the big game.
"Three or four days before the (Storm) game I was just stressing and just having her around it brings everything back to reality," Walsh said. "I enjoy being a dad and she is the best girl in the world. She keeps me grounded too."
Walsh's attentions now turn to the preliminary final against his former club, with Brisbane heavy favourites to end the Warriors' superb season and qualify for their first grand final since 2015. NRL great Billy Slater has already anointed Kevin Walters' side as "the team to beat" and says they "tick the most boxes" when it comes to a premiership-winning squad.
Billy Slater lauds Brisbane Broncos squad
"They've got these three incredible power forwards ... (Payne) Haas, (Patrick) Carrigan and (Thomas) Flegler, that just roll through the middle," he said on Wide World of Sports' The Billy Slater podcast. "They've got great skill in their game as well, and they've got good motors.
"They've got an old head in Adam Reynolds that just pulls the strings.... Billy Walters is playing fantastic. Ezra Mam's doing a great job. He's a great ball runner, really fast and a great support player. And then their outside backs are just so athletic. Their centres are so powerful and so much strike.
"And then on top of all of this, you've got this star young fullback in Reese Walsh that is just brilliant, that just wants to take the game apart at any time, whether it's a kick return, whether it's blowing through the middle of the field or getting out wide threatening on a bit of shape out wide."
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