Reece Walsh addresses Jarome Luai feud ahead of rematch between State of Origin rivals

Walsh and Luai clashed during infamous scenes in the 2023 series.

Queensland superstar Reece Walsh says he's looking forward to renewing rivalries with Blues playmaker Jarome Luai in the State of Origin opener in Sydney next Wednesday. Walsh and Luai found themselves at the centre of one of the most fiery feuds during last year's series, after clashing several times in Games I and II in 2023.

Walsh infamously pulled Luai's hair in Game I before blasting his opponent for running away from an altercation that ensued. Walsh and Luai were both sent off at the end of Game II in Brisbane, with both players later receiving fines for striking during a melee where the Panthers five-eighth head-butted the Broncos fullback.

On the left is Reece Walsh and the Origin star clashing with Jarome Luai on the right.
Reece Walsh and Jarome Luai were at the centre of an ugly feud in the 2023 State of Origin series. Pic: Getty

Luai then fired off at his critics on social media after the Blues' loss in Game II, which resulted in Queensland winning the series. It later emerged that Luai's swipe came about after he'd received death threats. That ugly saga prompted Walsh to send Luai a classy message of support as someone who is also a young father.

Luai haș become somewhat of a pantomime villain for Maroons fans after frequently getting under the skin of Queensland players. And Walsh says he's relishing the chance to once again lock horns with the three-time premiership winner, having come off second best in last year's grand final defeat with the Broncos.

"Luai, yeah... it's exciting. It's going to be good," Walsh said ahead of Wednesday night's series opener in Sydney. "We're two really competitive people. There are people you want to play with and against (like Luai) who give their all."

Luai was dropped for the Blues in Game III last year, while Walsh was suspended for the dead-rubber game that NSW won quite convincingly. It means Wednesday night's Origin opener will be the first time since their infamous feud that the pair will locked horns on the representative arena, with Walsh set to become public enemy No.1 in hostile Blues territory at Accor Stadium.

While there is no denying the animosity behind their previous run-ins on the Origin stage, Walsh insists he has no ill feelings towards Luai. And the Maroons' No.1 recognises he shares many of the same characteristics as Luai, that make those players a lightning rod of attention for opposition supporters.

"It's just passion, pride in your state, pride for your teammates and the people you are doing it for," Walsh said. "You don't want to let people down, that's footy. You go out and play with passion and sometimes it boils over a bit, but at the end of the day it's just footy."

Seen here, Reece Walsh and Jarome Luai clash in Game II of the 2023 State of Origin series.
Reece Walsh and Jarome Luai's feud erupted in Game II of the 2023 State of Origin series. Pic: Getty

Walsh's text message of support to Luai after the Blues player received death threats during last year's Origin series was testament to that stance. "I sent him a message after the game to see how he is going and to wish him all the best with everything," Walsh said before last year's NRL grand final after sympathising with his fellow father and family man.

"When you step off the field, it is a whole different thing. "I think people forget sometimes that we are normal people with young families to go home to. When I leave here and go back to my daughter (Leila) she doesn't know what game I have lost. She doesn't care about that. She just cares if she is getting chicken nuggets."


Walsh had a superb year in 2023 but knows he can take his game to another level in 2023. The Brisbane fullback is electric in attack but sill has plenty of mistakes in his game and Broncos coach Kevin Walters told him to "take a chill pill" earlier this year and try not to force things on the field too much.

But Maroons coach Billy Slater has encouraged Walsh to play his natural game in the Origin series and the flashy fullback is loving his time working with the NRL legend again. "His detail around everything is pretty crazy, so it's awesome just to get things about your body position, the way your shoulder should be, the way your hips should be," Walsh said.

"It's pretty crazy and awesome to get those sorts of things that you don't think about. He is the best at what he does, so for me it's awesome to be around the best fullback to ever play our game. To get the opportunity to be coached and mentored by him and getting drills at training is a lifetime opportunity, so I'm soaking it up and enjoying the moments together."

with AAP