Reece Walsh will miss State of Origin Game III after the NRL judiciary deemed in a lengthy process the 20-year-old would be handed a three-week suspension for his outburst, but the hearing saw Titans star David Fifita fumble his defence of the star. The Maroons fullback was left humbled on Tuesday night after a near three-hour hearing saw the panel hand Walsh a three-game suspension.
The suspension of the in-form Walsh is a blow to the Maroons' hopes of sealing a rare series whitewash in Sydney on July 12 and pits Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and AJ Brimson against one another in a battle for the coveted fullback jersey. The hearing had everything with Fifita bungling his defence for Walsh, before backtracking, Patrick Carrigan struggling to use his phone and a split verdict on Walsh.
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The youngster found himself at the centre of attention on the weekend after microphones caught him sending a spray towards someone on the field after an obstruction cost Selwyn Cobbo a penalty against the Titans. Cameras panned towards the Broncos defence after the penalty, before Walsh was heard yelling the F and C words towards someone on the field, looking towards the referee.
Walsh has maintained he was swearing at teammate Carrigan, who gave evidence at the hearing via video-link. Penrith great Tony Puletua and former referee Sean Hampstead were divided on the outcome, which saw judiciary chair Geoff Bellew SC cast a deciding vote. The judiciary deemed Walsh did say, "What the f**k do you mean, c**t?" towards referee Chris Buttler.
Walsh said Carrigan had approached him and told him to "slow your f***ing brain" so as not to give away more penalties, to which Walsh claimed he reacted with his profanity. "We're honest with each other and we can have tough conversations," explained Walsh.
As the two players closest to the outburst, Carrigan and Titans forward Fifita both gave evidence via video link. But when both admitted to having spoken to Walsh about the incident beforehand, the judiciary chose not to give weight to their testimony.
Reece Walsh & the Broncos contend that he was abusing teammate Pat Carrigan not the ref (he says ‘a player’ in his instagram post).
This new vision is very damning and will make that argument incredibly hard at the judiciary. I think he’s little chance of avoiding a ban. #NRL pic.twitter.com/0VWOQfV46T
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) June 26, 2023
Highlights of their testimony included Carrigan holding his phone camera up to his forehead as he struggled to hear the feed's audio and Fifita twice referring to Walsh as "Reecy Boy". But in one of the most bizarre moments, Fifita initially said Walsh had directed his comment to the referee before backtracking when probed by Bellew.
"I just get real nervous when I speak to youse," he said. "I just get intimidated by speaking to you because I think I'm in the wrong."
NRL world reacts to Reece Walsh ban
After news filtered through Walsh was being handed a three-week ban, which will see him miss three NRL games and Origin, fans were left divided over the outcome. Many felt Walsh was fortunate to only cop three-weeks because of the look on the game.
However, others felt it was harsh on Walsh considering swearing often occurs on the field.
Reece Walsh - 3 weeks = Seems pretty much spot on!
— Anthony Morgan (@anthfieg1) June 27, 2023
I don't agree with Reece Walsh being found guilty. However, it's done now. Reece will miss Origin and 2 club games, and I hope he learns to contain his "passion" during his time off the field. Sad ending to what has been a dream season for him.
— incognito (@yeahthegirls_) June 27, 2023
Got off very lightly
— kane wilson #toots300 (@kanewillow1990) June 27, 2023
I am a Broncos member, and don’t have a problem with him being found guilty. He is playing fantastic, but he needs to pull his head in.
Although I think missing the last origin is harsh. With that said, we have already won the series so that makes it easier to take. 🤣🤣🤣
— journalistagendas (@journalistagen1) June 27, 2023
Not long enough, no excuses for gobbing off at the ref
— james dudley (@jimmyduds) June 27, 2023
The NRL's counsel Patrick Knowles believed Walsh approaching the referee to clarify he had been "talking to Patty" proved the fullback knew he had gone too far in his comments to the referee.
Knowles also lashed parts of Walsh's evidence as "demonstrably untrue" and "frankly incredulous", especially the suggestion he had not been complaining about the obstruction penalty when he first approached Butler.
Walsh can return early for the Rabbitohs game if the Broncos lodge an application to have Origin count towards his ban. Even if they choose not to do so, he will be unavailable for the third game of the series.
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