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Walsh's front-line defence not Origin ready, Warriors warn Maroons

A Tom Trbojevic trouncing has prompted the Warriors to keep Reece Walsh from defending anywhere bar fullback, with the club arguing his defensive development should keep the teen prodigy out of Queensland contention.

Walsh has been touted as a Maroons bolter as coach Paul Green bids to keep the series alive at Suncorp Stadium in 11 days time, with fitness concerns around Kalyn Ponga (groin) and AJ Brimson (knee) bringing the 18-year-old into Origin reckoning.

A utility role has been flagged for Walsh, who has only played six NRL games between fullback, five-eighth and the Warriors bench.

The youngster reiterated on Wednesday he would be comfortable with a rapid representative rise and had no issue with coach Nathan Brown's comments that "it’s certainly not in anyone’s best interests to have Reece at 18 in State of Origin".

"I'd be comfortable if [Origin selection] was to come," Walsh said.

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"I've got a lot of good people around who would help me.

"I haven't heard anything too much but I'm not too worried about that.

"I'm just looking forward to this week ahead, what's coming ahead for myself and that's the Knights. If [Origin] comes it comes later."

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Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will remain in a floating wing role against Newcastle on Saturday with Walsh at fullback and Sean O'Sullivan coming into the halves after Chanel Harris-Tavita underwent season-ending pec surgery.

Despite having Walsh as a potential playmaking option that would allow 2018 Dally M medallist Tuivasa-Sheck to return to fullback, Trbojevic's carve-up of Walsh in round nine has the Warriors wary of overloading him without the ball.

Trbojevic made a beeline for Walsh's left edge in a rollicking 38-32 win and set up several tries as a result, prompting Brown to abandon playing the youngster anywhere but fullback since.

The Manly star's stunning roving role in Origin I for NSW raises a similar prospect for the Maroons if Walsh were to be pitched into their defensive system.

"If you remember him defending against Manly, he needs to nail down one position defensively," Warriors assistant coach Justin Morgan said.

"I know Brownie's been working really hard on his positional play at fullback and we feel rather than chopping or changing him, getting him to defend at 'three-man', getting him to defend at 'two-man', let's lock down the role at fullback because that's where he's going to be for us long term.

"It takes a bit of stress off his body too with big boys running at him if he's in the front line.

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"We feel it'd be too taxing for him physically to defend in the front line at the moment."

Walsh comes up against Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga on Saturday, who has been named to return from the groin injury that ruled him out of Origin I.

Final clearance for Ponga to make his comeback is not expected until Friday, and if he or Brimson are ruled out it would pit Walsh up against Ben Hunt for a bench utility role.

"No disrespect to Reece, I think Origin's beyond him at the moment," Morgan said.

"He's still wrapping his head around the NRL.

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I would say that 2021 is a tad early for him to be thrown into that cauldron.

"We've seen in the past young players in key positions, as playmakers or in fullback roles, thrown into Origin and it chews them up and spits them out.

"It takes them a while to find their feet again. If he does get picked, the one thing he won't lack is willingness and confidence but to be fair there's other players with a tad more experience that they're more likely to go with."


Origin II in Brisbane is sold out but tickets are still on sale for game three at Stadium Australia in Sydney on July 14 - get your tickets at

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