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Reece Walsh's painful admission after backlash over Nathan Cleary grand final moment

The Brisbane Broncos fullback went missing when his team needed him most.

Reece Walsh and Nathan Cleary.
Reece Walsh was found out as Nathan Cleary scored the winning try in the NRL grand final. Image: Getty

Reece Walsh is vowing to use his painful experience in the NRL grand final as motivation for 2024, admitting he wasn't up to scratch in the Broncos' narrow loss to Penrith. The Broncos let a 24-8 lead slip and coughed up the NRL premiership, with Nathan Cleary masterminding an extraordinary comeback that saw the Panthers snatch a 26-24 victory at the death.

Cleary set up two tries and scored the match-winner in a stunning 20-minute display to turn the game on its head. Walsh, who had a hot and cold night, was found wanting in defence as Cleary strolled through a huge gap to score his premiership-winning try.

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The Broncos fullback failed to slide across and cover a hole when the ball was thrown to Cleary on the blind-side, and the Panthers halfback made Walsh pay as he stepped back inside to score. Speaking in commentary for Channel 9, Johnathan Thurston highlighted how Walsh didn't "fill the space", and he also copped plenty of backlash from fans over the lapse.

Walsh has since admitted his mistake, and on Monday he revealed he wasn't happy about his impact with ball in hand either. The Broncos re-watched the game as a team and pin-pointed a number of areas that cost them. Speaking in Los Angeles ahead of the Broncos' round-one clash with the Sydney Roosters in Las Vegas, Walsh said he had a key takeaway.

"Just to take the moments when they come and get more involved," he said. "I felt in that game I probably wasn't involved as much as I wanted to be and that was credit to Penrith and their defence.

"It is always going to be tough looking back on (the grand final) and seeing how close we were. The good thing about footy is that we are back this year and even more motivated. I feel like (the loss) has brought us tighter as a group. The scars are still hurting but we are using that for the season ahead. We are keeping that wound open."

Reece Walsh and Nathan Cleary in the NRL grand final in 2023.
Reece Walsh failed to stop Nathan Cleary scoring the winning try in the NRL grand final. (Getty Images)

Reece Walsh excited to test himself on narrower Las Vegas field

Walsh can be dynamite when he gets his hands on the ball in open space. But there might not be as much room to move on a smaller field at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

As well as being 93m long instead of the regulation 100m, the field is also five metres narrower (63m in width rather than 68). It means the games will most likely be played through the middle more, rather than out wide.

But Walsh is relishing the task. "I think it is a good challenge for myself," he said. "I have set a few goals coming into this year and I think playing on that narrower field it is going to be good to try and implement some of them and work on the things I want to work on. I want to get involved more, have more carries and more quality touches."

Walsh is on the cusp of signing a new contract with the Broncos, believed to be worth about $1.1 million per season. But with the situation still unresolved, Walsh joked that he thought coach Kevin Walters had "lost" his phone number when asked about a contract extension.

"I am still waiting for a phone call ... but I am sure all of that is going to get sorted out," he said. "I would like to secure some long-term stuff but ... I just have to let my footy do the talking. I am sure there will be a time when we sit down and have a conversation, and I look forward to it.

"I have my family down the road and lots of good mates. I feel like these (Broncos) boys are my family too now. I love the club, the staff and the fans. We are doing something really special here."

with AAP

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