Reece Walsh sends massive warning to NSW after attacking masterclass in Broncos loss

Walsh firms as potentially the biggest threat to Michael Maguire's Blues side in Origin.

Reece Walsh fired one last warning shot to Michael Maguire's Blues side before the State of Origin opener in Sydney on Wednesday week after a dazzling display for a losing Brisbane side on Sunday. Maroons coach Billy Slater named Walsh at fullback in his Origin squad, but stunned the NRL world after leaving out David Fifita, who was superb in Gold Coast's shock 36-34 defeat of Walsh's Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

While Fifita's omission from the Maroons' 20-man squad left the league world stunned, there were no surprises to see Walsh picked at fullback, and his electric display on Sunday rammed home how difficult it will be for Maguire's Blues side to contain the Brisbane livewire when the Origin series kicks off on June 5. Walsh did have some errors in his game, as can sometimes be the way, but the threat he poses was there for all to see.

Seen here, Reece Walsh playing for the Broncos against the Titans in the NRL.
Reece Walsh returned from injury to put on a superb attacking display in a losing Broncos side against the Titans in the NRL. Pic: Fox League/Getty

Without his injured veteran halfback Adam Reynolds there to pull the strings, Walsh has taken on added ball-playing responsibility. And against the Titans, he was at the centre of most of Brisbane's best attacking raids. Walsh had two try assists, seven tackle breaks and two line breaks to go with 182 run metres in a dazzling display that indicated he has recovered well from a knee injury that saw him sidelined the previous week.

Walsh hit hole-running expert Brendan Piakura for a first half try that gave the home side a 24-16 lead at the break. And the flashy fullback's blistering speed helped put over Selwyn Cobbo to score a late try that set up a grandstand finish, only for the Titans to bravely hang on for the win. Walsh was somewhat subdued in the second half as the Broncos' display dipped but his attacking performance had fans singing his praises.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing for Walsh, as well as Broncos and Maroons fans, is how much he's matured as a player since last season. Walsh's previous game against the Titans in round 17 last year saw him slapped with a three-match ban for an expletive tirade towards referee Chris Butler. But Maroons legend Darren Lockyer says the 21-year-old has "calmed down" a bit and his game is constantly improving.

"Definitely that episode last year, he has taken it on board and it's all a learning curve," Lockyer said. And while Broncos coach Kevin Walters has told his superstar No.1 to "take a chill" pill this season, show more patience and not try to force things on the field, Lockyer says it's something Walsh will soon learn with more experience.

"It's just time in the seat. You start to relax a bit more once you have been there a bit longer," Lockyer added. "We talk about what Reece brings to the game and everyone loves what he brings. He brings entertainment, he brings spark and energy and sometimes the first thing he needs to focus on is his job for the team and not the other stuff.


"The points and entertainment will come if he does his job first and foremost. The rest will follow... playing with more composure comes with time and experience and Reece, we know what he can do with the footy, but it's getting better at knowing when to pull the trigger and when not to. He will only get better with that in time."

While Walsh will be one of the first names on the Maroons team sheet that Blues coach Maguire will focus on, it must be a huge sigh of relief that Slater has opted to leave out Titans powerhouse, Fifita. Arguably one of the most in-form edge forwards in the NRL this season, Fifita played in all three Origin games last year but was overlooked in favour of Jeremiah Nanai and Jaydn Su'a in the second row, with Parramatta forward J'Maine Hopgood earning his Queensland debut on the bench.

Seen here, David Fifita with the Maroons in Origin in 2023.
David Fifita was a shock omission from Billy Slater's Maroons squad after playing in all three games last year. Pic: Getty

Slater revealed on Monday morning that it was merely the form of others that resulted in Fifita being axed. "I've got no doubt that Dave will get back to the footy he played last year, and I'm sure he will wear a Maroons jersey in the future again," the coach said.

“Dave created a really high standard for his footy last year. He just hasn’t quite got to that standard this year. I spoke to Dave last night, he’s taken the disappointing news like a true Queenslander and wishes the best for the footy team.”

  1. Reece Walsh

  2. Xavier Coates

  3. Valentine Holmes

  4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

  5. Murray Taulagi

  6. Tom Dearden

  7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c)

  8. Reuben Cotter

  9. Ben Hunt

  10. Lindsay Collins

  11. Jaydn Su’a

  12. Jeremiah Nanai

  13. Patrick Carrigan

  14. Harry Grant

  15. Moeaki Fotuaika

  16. J’Maine Hopgood

  17. Selwyn Cobbo

Reserves: 18. Felise Kaufusi, 19. Brendan Piakura, 20. Ezra Mam

with AAP