Reece Walsh shoulder charge uproar leaves NRL legends divided

The Maroons hopeful could be in hot water over this controversial incident.

·5-min read
Broncos fullback Reece Walsh reacts and Walsh tackles Justin Olam.
Broncos fullback and Origin hopeful Reece Walsh (pictured left) could be in hot water after what looked like a shoulder charge on Justin Olam (pictured right). (Images: Getty Images/Fox Sports)

Maroons coach Billy Slater has defended Broncos fullback and Origin hopeful Reece Walsh after what looked like a shoulder charge on Justin Olam to stop a Melbourne Storm try. Walsh could be facing a suspension ahead of a potential Maroons call up for State of Origin following his team's 24-16 loss to the Storm on Thursday night.

The match was filled with drama after four sin-bins, Harry Grant giving away a penalty try and a controversial call not to award the Storm a penalty try after Walsh's effort to stop Olam. The Storm were leading 6-0 when Olam took advantage of an overlap play and was racing towards the corner flag.

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However, Walsh raced across and just before Olam dived for the corner, the fullback collided with the Storm player and sent him crashing into touch. There appeared to be very little effort to wrap his arms around Olam in the tackle.

Olam did turn into Walsh just before the contact, but the Bunker checked the replay and was happy with the tackle. The last-ditch shoulder charge has been a talking point in the NRL in the past with arguably the game's greatest ever fullback, Slater, in hot water after a similar incident in the preliminary final back in 2018.

And speaking on the incident, Slater said Walsh was just bracing for impact. “It was a good decision, because they were both headed to the same spot when Olam changes his line to go in towards Reece Walsh,” Slater said on Channel Nine commentary.

“There’s not much he can do. He’s just got to embrace the contact, make sure he doesn’t hit Olam in the head, which we didn’t do. I think that’s a good decision.”

Arguably the game's greatest ever player, Andrew Johns, agreed with Slater. “In desperation like this you just throw everything you’ve got,” he added. “He just throws everything at Olam. There is no technique, he just launches at him.”

On Triple M commentary, the panel was more divided. Commentator Anthony Maroon said it was "definitely" a shoulder charge. Former Maroons winger Wendell Sailor didn't think there was much in it.

Current sharks player Wade Graham completely disagreed. “C’mon Dell," he said. Maroon added: “That will be a Dally M shoulder charge of the year."

Reece Walsh scores a try.
Reece Walsh (pictured) could be in hot water after a potential shoulder charge on Thursday night. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

While the Bunker ruled the tackle fine, Graham claimed Walsh could be in hot water when it comes to the match review committee. This doesn't bode well for the fullback who is in a battle to be selected as the Maroons fullback for Game I.

To make matters worse for the Storm, the Broncos went up the other end of the field on the next set of six and scored through a penalty try after Harry Grant's intervention. Fans were left seething with the majority believing Walsh didn't use his arms in the tackling technique.

Harry Grant gives away penalty try against the Broncos

Only moments later controversy erupted again when in the 23rd minute the Broncos were awarded a penalty try. Walsh was at his brilliant best and flicked the ball to Herbie Farnworth.

The ball ricocheted off his knee and was propelled towards the try line. Farnworth was then in a race to the ball against Storm No.9 Grant.

As Farnworth appeared ahead of Grant and ready to win the foot race, Grant moved across the forward and went to kick at the ball as it bobbled. He then put a hand on the Broncos star's back as they became entangled.

Brisbane halfback Adam Reynolds flew past the two players and grounded the ball on the dead ball line. Reynolds' effort was ruled a no try, which also saw the halfback knocked out after slamming his head against the turf.

Commentator Dane Ginnane questioned how much intervention Grant had in the play. "He is trying to pull out. Has he done anything wrong here, Grant?" Ginanne asked.

The Bunker intervened and ruled that Farnworth would have been first to the ball in a try scoring position without Grant's intervention. "There is a big decision, a big decision indeed," commentator Ginnane said.

While the two calls went in favour of the Broncos, the loss of Reynolds hurt the team and Craig Bellamy's men were able to see out a thrilling contest. The Storm now move to third on the ladder with the Rabbitohs a chance to take top spot if they defeat the Wests Tigers.

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