Reece Walsh could miss State of Origin II as Wally Lewis makes staggering call on NRL star

The Queensland legend has urged the young fullback to seriously consider whether he should play in Game II.

Billy Slater has provided a positive update on Reece Walsh, however NRL legend Wally Lewis has urged the Queensland fullback to consider skipping State of Origin II for the benefit of his health. Walsh was knocked out of Origin I after just seven minutes, with Joseph Suaalii sent off for his ugly hit on the young No.1.

Walsh lost consciousness for a brief period but was able to walk from the field under his own power and appeared to be in good spirits after the game. However he was ruled to have suffered a Category 1 concussion, which triggered the NRL's mandatory 11-day stand-down period.

Because the Broncos have two games in that period and then a bye in Round 16, the earliest Walsh will be back on the field is State of Origin II. It appears highly unlikely that Walsh would want to miss an Origin game, particularly after he only played seven minutes in Game I.

Wally Lewis, Billy Slater and Reece Walsh.
Wally Lewis has urged Billy Slater and Reece Walsh to consider not playing him in State of Origin II. Image: Getty

But Queensland legend Lewis has called on Walsh and Maroons officials to seriously consider not playing him. Lewis suffers a form of dementia related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - a brain disorder caused by repeated head knocks. CTE can only be diagnosed after death, but Lewis has been told he almost certainly has it.

The 64-year-old has been campaigning for greater awareness around CTE and head injuries for a number of years, and reckons the 21-year-old Walsh should consider taking a longer break than mandated. "As a former player I know you don't want to wait around, you want to come back the next week," Lewis told the Sydney Morning Herald. "You don't want to sit on the sideline or be considered a wimp if you don't come back in a few weeks.

Reece Walsh in State of Origin I.
Reece Walsh was knocked out of State of Origin I after just seven minutes. Image: Getty

"But there are too many long-term dangers to put up with now. You need to accept the decision from doctors and medical staff. I'm sure Reece will want to get back as soon as possible. The doctors will be exercising their professional prowess and making sure there won't be an early comeback. There's too much to lose."

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow replaced Walsh at fullback in Origin I and showed they wouldn't be missing much if their first-choice fullback misses the second game. The Hammer scored a hat-trick as the Maroons trounced a 12-man NSW side 38-10.


Meanwhile, Maroons coach Slater has addressed Suaalii's hit for the first time while also providing an update on Walsh's condition. Slater initially bit his tongue and refused to comment on Suaalii's hit, but broke his silence on Sunday.

"I spoke to Reece yesterday actually and he's recovering well from this incident," Slater said on the Sunday Footy Show. "To be fair, I don't really like watching it too much. He's in good spirits and he will go through the 11-day protocols and he won't play again for the Broncos (before Origin II). The good thing is that he is doing OK.

"I honestly don't like watching it too much (Suaalii's hit), it's pretty sickening and it's not good for our game. I can't imagine too many mums and dads would want to throw their kids in the car and take them and sign them up after watching this sort of stuff.

"I was really disappointed, because I know how hard [Walsh] prepared for the game and he had great clarity around what his game looked like. He was ready to go after it and that was taken away from him only seven minutes into the contest. I haven't commented on the incident … I don't think my comments are going to do the game or any individuals involved in the incident any benefit."