Queensland coach Billy Slater says he thinks Reece Walsh was telling the truth over the foul-mouthed spray that's seen the Maroons fullback suspended for the third and final State off Origin game in Sydney, on Wednesday week. Walsh was handed a three-game ban after being found guilty of an ugly tirade towards a referee, during Brisbane's round 17 defeat to Gold Coast in the NRL.
Walsh's ban for Game III sees Titans star AJ Brimson replace the 20-year-old at fullback for the Maroons in one of only two changes to Slater's team announcement on Monday. Corey Horsburgh is the other new addition to the 17-man squad, with North Queensland's Tom Dearden and Parramatta's J'maine Hopgood named 18th and 19th man, respectively.
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Reece was rubbed out of Game II after reacting angrily to referee Chris Buttler's penalty against his team and could be heard yelling: “What the f*** do you mean, c***”. The Brisbane fullback insisted he was directing the spray at Broncos teammate Patrick Carrigan, but after a marathon hearing at the NRL judiciary, he was eventually slapped with a three-game ban for contrary conduct.
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
Billy Slater believes Reece Walsh claim
Speaking to reporters at his Maroons squad unveiling on Monday, Slater said he believed Walsh's version of events, despite the judiciary's ruling and fairly widespread scepticism across the league world. “I actually believe his side of the story that he was directing those comments to Pat Carrigan, but at the end of the day he needs to own that and be better at that,” Slater said.
“He won’t play the victim, he’ll go and be better at this area of his game and he’ll get a chance to play for Queensland again, there’s nothing surer of that.” Slater admits he has spoken to Walsh about the incident, as well as his responsibilities as a role model and representative of the state, but was quick to point out the superstar is still very young.
“I’m very honest with Reece... (But) let’s not forget Reece is 20 years old, take yourself back to when you were 20 and how many mistakes you made and how imperfect you were,” Slater added. “I don’t like thinking about it because there was a lot... I was making mistakes when I was 30 and I’m still making them.
“Sometimes we forget that when young players come into the game and they play to such a high standard that we forget how young they are and that they’ve still got development left in them. That’s a development area that Reece will focus on, he’ll be better at this in the future.
“Reece will go away and he’ll cop it on the chin and move on. It’s disappointing for Reece, he’s worked really hard to be in the position he’s in but he’s unfortunately not going to get the chance to play for Queensland in this third game.”
Maroons make two enforced changes to their 17
Brimson has been rewarded for his form with the Titans as Walsh's replacement at fullback for the Maroons, who have the chance of becoming the first side since 2010 to secure a series clean sweep. The other enforced change sees Raiders back-row star Horsburgh replace the injured Tom Flegler (foot) in what will be his Origin debut.
"Corey Horsburgh makes you take notice of his performances. The habits I look for are habits Corey has created in his game," Slater said on Monday. "He was excited to be in the squad for game two and you could see his enthusiasm throughout the 10-day preparation.
"You can tell players that have a great off-season, and Corey is one. He's built a great base to his fitness levels, regularly plays 70 minutes straight for the Raiders. Ricky Stuart and the coaching staff have done a great job developing Corey, and no one more than himself."
Queensland Maroons: 1. AJ Brimson 2. Xavier Coates 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (capt) 8. Reuben Cotter 9. Harry Grant 10. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 11. David Fifita 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Ben Hunt 15. Lindsay Collins 16.Moeaki Fotuaika 17. Corey Horsburgh 18. Tom Dearden 19. J'maine Hopgood.
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