Rookie of the year hopeful Reece Walsh wanted to be a “Bronco for life”, has pledged his representative allegiance to Queensland – not New Zealand – and revealed how his partner and two-month-old daughter were keeping him grounded.
Walsh has been excellent for the New Zealand Warriors in his first five NRL games and while former junior teammate Sam Walker has been the 18-year-old to capture more headlines, the young fullback will certainly turn heads if he can impress against North Queensland and their No.1 superstar Valentine Holmes on Friday.
Reece Walsh thought he would be a Bronco for life.Credit:Getty
Like Walker, Walsh was let go by the Broncos as the club felt he was not yet ready for the big time.
“I thought I’d be at the Broncos – I thought I’d be a Bronco for life,” Walsh said. “It didn’t work out. I sat down and had a chat with [coach] Kevvie [Walters], and the plans I wanted for my future, they weren’t the same as what he wanted.
“I wanted to play first grade. I’m not saying I wanted to jump into it straight away, but Kevvie didn’t think I was quite ready … he wanted to hold me back a bit. They had Jamayne [Isaako] there.
“Once I sat down and spoke with ‘Browny’ [Nathan Brown], he’s a terrific coach, I want to learn and grow as a player, so I thought that was where my best opportunity was to grow.”
Reece Walsh takes a breather after another epic performance last Friday.Credit:Getty Images
Brown strolled into the press conference after last Friday’s win over the Wests Tigers and quipped: “No questions about Reece Walsh”.
Such is the respect for Walsh that rugby-bound Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had bumped himself to the wing to allow the new recruit and long-term No.1 flourish.
Despite listed as being born in Sydney on Wikipedia, which gave brief hope to NSW fans, Walsh said he was a Gold Coast local and wanted to play for Queensland.
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire was keen for Walsh to play for the Kiwis, but the youngster himself came through the Queensland ranks with fellow 18-year-old Broncos discard Walker.
“Me and Sammy are good mates,” Walsh said. “I’m born on the Gold Coast. I’m a Queenslander and love Queensland and it’s a dream of mine one day to play for Queensland.
“‘Madge’ [Maguire] said to me, ‘Kiwis, what do you want to do?’, but I said, ‘I’m an Aussie, mate’.
“I was born on the Gold Coast, I lived in Nerang my whole life, played with the Nerang Roosters. I was only new to Brisbane, but I supported the Broncos my whole life.
“I grew up with Sammy, we played under-15s Queensland together in the halves, we played Origin under-18s when I came off the bench, and Queensland Schoolboys and Aussie Schoolboys. I started at fullback and he was in the halves in that team.
“He’s one of my good mates. I’m so pumped he’s killing it [at the Roosters].”
Walsh became a father in the weeks leading to his mid-season switch from Red Hill to Terrigal, and said of his daughter, Layla: “Looking back I didn’t think I’d be having a kid at 18, but it keeps me grounded having a missus and baby back home. It’s definitely a blessing in disguise.”
Walsh also felt he owed a lot to Tuivasa-Sheck for selflessly giving up his preferred fullback role and said: “People like ‘Roge’, what he has done in the game. He’s won a premiership, a Dally M, a Golden Boot. It makes me feel special and I want to go out and do a job for him and the boys.”
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