Queensland Origin debutant Reece Walsh is only 18 with just seven NRL games to his name, but the Warriors teen sensation has NSW coach Brad Fittler on high alert heading into Origin II in Brisbane on Sunday.
In a bold gamble to level the series, the Maroons will start Walsh at fullback, hoping the whiz kid can ignite the Queensland attack.
The Gold Coast-born talent becomes Queensland’s youngest player in 26 years after Ben Ikin debuted in 1995.
Walsh, one of five changes for the Maroons, has been brilliant in his rookie season with the Warriors, scoring four tries and amassing an impressive 25 tackle breaks and eight try assists in seven games.
Reece Walsh’s brilliant attacking ability has NSW coach Brad Fittler worried. Picture: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Fittler, who remains the youngest player to debut for NSW at 18 years and 114 days, has no doubts the teen star is ready to thrive on the Origin stage.
“Oh, I know a few other blokes who have done that,” Fittler joked, referring to his own early entry to Origin football.
“It doesn’t work out for everyone, but I love watching him play. He is a real talent, and we are going to have to be really careful as he brings a lot of footy to their team.
“It is exciting.
“He is just a great footy player, and he doesn’t seem to get discouraged by errors and just gets on with it.
“That is quite a trait, so I’m looking forward to being part of his debut.”
Fittler also confirmed Roosters back-rower Angus Crichton would come off the bench for the Blues, while Storm forward Dale Finucane would remain on an extended bench.
NSW haven’t played the opening two games of an Origin series in Brisbane since 1982 when they lost both games.
Fittler, though, is confident that his side can defy the record books at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night.
“That makes it exciting and a great challenge,” he said.
“But we’ve got a really good group here, and it is something they should aspire to.
“They didn’t do it in 1982 – they got beat in both of those games, so there is a little challenge there.”
Blues five-eighth Jarome Luai stands over Maroons forward Felise Kaufusi in Game 1.Source:Supplied
Fittler also weighed in on a photo of NSW five-eighth Jarome Luai standing over Maroons back-rower Felise Kaufusi midway through the Blues’ 50-6 victory in Game 1 in Townsville.
The Maroons aren’t happy at Luai’s apparent taunt, but the Panthers star says he was only giving as good as he got after he was sledged by the Queenslanders while injured earlier in the game.
Fittler likes the photo – and Luai’s energetic intent.
“I’ve seen the photo – it is a really good photo,” he said.
“I’m not sure if they are using it as motivation.
“Being excited on the footy field and bringing energy – I love what he does.
“He brings that every day, so yeah, it is a good photo.”
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