Reece Walsh claim shot down by Michael Maguire after comments from Johnathan Thurston

Thurston was among those to take aim at the Blues after the drama in Origin Game 1.

NSW coach Michael Maguire has hit back at suggestions from Queensland that his players went out to deliberately hurt Maroons fullback Reece Walsh in Game 1 of the State of Origin series. Queensland assistant coaches Johnathan Thurston and Nate Myles both accused the Blues of targeting Walsh after he was wiped out of the opening game in Sydney after an 8th minute high shot by Joseph Suaalii.

"Everyone has seen it and it was unfortunate for Suaalii making his debut," Thurston said about the biggest talking point from Game 1. "It was direct, forceful contact to the head and they clearly had a target on (Walsh)... the officials had no other option (but to send off Suaalii)." Myles - who was spotted mouthing off at Suaalii as he left the ground - was also critical of the Blues' approach to Walsh.

In the middle is NSW coach Michael Maguire, with QLD Origin great Johnathan Thurston on left and Reece Walsh right.
NSW coach Michael Maguire has bristled at suggestions from the likes of QLD Origin great Johnathan Thurston that his Blues players targeted Maroons fullback, Reece Walsh. Pic: Getty

"Suaalii got it wrong and... it's not a good look for the game," Myles said. "Controlled aggression is key now. Controlled aggression isn't hitting the right spot every time, it's what you do on every play. A good side sticks to their tactics and doesn't get it wrong. That play on Reece out the back, they didn't get it right."

Walsh has been sidelined since the incident but was on Monday named in Billy Slater's QLD side for Game 2 at the MCG on June 26. That will mark Walsh's return to action after he missed Brisbane's last two games as part of the NRL's 11-day stand down period for concussions.

As long as he passes final tests in Maroons camp, Walsh will take the field against NSW in Game 2 and Slater says he's been in constant contact with Walsh to check on his progress. "I have been talking to Reece over the last week and he has been ticking all the boxes and being really professional away from playing," the Maroons coach told the Nine Network.

Slater and his NSW coaching counterpart Maguire both spoke with the media on Monday morning after confirming their teams for the crucial Game 2 clash at the MCG. And Maguire bristled at questions from reporters that his Blues side went into Game 1 with a specific plan to take Walsh out of the contest, like the Queenslanders have suggested.

"You've gotta go out and defend everyone. At the end of the day, we need all 17 on the park," Maguire shot back. "You've got to make sure that you don't live in glass houses, that's all I'll say. Things happen on the field. Joey (Suaalii) is a special human being, and for him to have to deal with that (wasn't on).

"He'll be in and around the camp at some stage, but things happen on the field. It's glass houses ... Interesting. If you want to have a crack at our players, we're about us and what we're doing, and you've got to make sure that when you're with your players that you look after them. That's what I'm doing."

NSW coach Michael Maguire has defended Joseph Suaalii after the backlash around his State of Origin send-off. Pic: Getty
NSW coach Michael Maguire has defended Joseph Suaalii after the backlash around his State of Origin send-off. Pic: Getty

Maguire's fiery response sets the scene for an intriguing Game 2 that the Blues simply have to win to keep the series alive and avoid losing a third-straight series. Maguire has made five changes to his side, with Latrell Mitchell replacing Suaalii at centre, Cameron Murray starting at lock, Dylan Edwards taking over at fullback and utility Connor Watson named for his debut off the bench.

Nicho Hynes can consider himself unlucky after being dropped for Mitchell Moses at halfback, having struggled to stamp his authority for the 12-man Blues in Game 1. "I'm really comfortable with Mitch coming in," Maguire said. "I'm really confident that over the discussions I've had with Mitch, and he's been there and he's had the opportunities or the experience that he knows what to expect."

Maguire also shut down speculation of a rift with Mitchell, who is set to play his first Origin game for NSW since 2021 when the Blues won the series. "He's playing great footy and I think everyone can see that," Maguire said. You don't need to dig into that. He's got a smile on his face and he's got a lot of spirit with what he's doing, and that resonates through his footy. We all know he's a talented world-class player, and he's shown that, especially in the last month where he's growing to what Latrell can do."

Pictured left to right, Mitchell Moses and Nicho Hynes.
Mitchell Moses replaces Nicho Hynes at halfback for NSW in State of Origin Game 2 after the Sharks star failed to fire in the opening match of the series. Pic: Getty

Dylan Edwards, Brian To'o, Stephen Crichton, Latrell Mitchell, Zac Lomax, Jarome Luai, Mitch Moses, Jake Trbojevic (capt), Reece Robson, Payne Haas, Liam Martin, Angus Crichton, Cameron Murray. Bench: Connor Watson, Isaah Yeo, Haumole Olakau'atu, Spencer Leniu. 18th man: Mitchell Barnett. Reserves: Cameron McInnes, Luke Keary

Reece Walsh, Xavier Coates, Valentine Holmes, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Murray Taulagi, Tom Dearden, Daly Cherry-Evans, Reuben Cotter, Ben Hunt, Lindsay Collins, Jaydn Su'A, Jeremiah Nanai, Patrick Carrigan, Harry Grant, Moeaki Fotuaika, Felise Kaufusi, Kurt Capewell, 18th man: Dane Gagai. Reserves: Heilum Luki, Trent Loiero