Reece Walsh is adamant he is ready for his Origin debut, defying the criticism levelled at Maroons selectors by his own Warriors NRL club who are concerned the teenager is being thrown to the wolves.
Former NSW Origin coach and Warriors consultant Phil Gould slammed the debut of Walsh as "disgracefully weak", fearing the 18-year-old is being handed too tough an assignment after Queensland were thumped 50-6 in Origin I.
Walsh said he hadn’t seen or read Gould’s comments but is ready for the challenge of wearing the No.1 jersey for the Maroons and would confidently handle whatever is thrown at him by the Blues.
"I feel like everyone will have their opinion," Walsh said.
"I will back myself 100 per cent. That's what you have to do as a footballer, you can't go out there thinking I'm not ready or I'm going to hold back, you are playing for your mates, your state and your family. I don't want to go out there half-hearted.
Reece lightning bolts into Origin history
"It feels good, I feel really excited to be here, I'm still pinching myself walking around with a bunch of stars. It's pretty special, I'm enjoying it.
"My heart sunk [when I got the call from coach Paul Green]. It's something you dream of since you were a little kid, just that opportunity to play for Queensland and my state, it was pretty special and I've overwhelmed to be honest."
While the Maroons are not expecting miracles from Walsh after just seven NRL games, his most important task will be to organise a defensive line that was picked to pieces by the Blues in Origin I.
I'm still pinching myself walking around with a bunch of starsMaroons rookie Reece Walsh
"That's my job and I will organise to the best of my ability," he said.
"I feel like talk is a big part of my game. I am still getting used to it now, it's something I can still work on, but I feel it's a strong part of my game, but I have a lot of work to do.
"I feel I will be alright, the boys will look after me. I feel like I just have to do my job and give 100 per cent and the boys will have my back and look after me out there."
It has been a stunning few months for Walsh, who started the year unable to convince Broncos coach Kevin Walters to promote him into their top 30 NRL squad.
He requested a midseason transfer to the Warriors and almost immediately Dally M medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck offered to move to the wing so Walsh could be the starting fullback.
While Walsh never wanted to leave the Broncos, the club he grew up dreaming to play for, he holds no animosity towards Walters and isn’t using this Origin debut as a chance to rub salt into Brisbane’s wounds.
"I don't have a point to prove to Kevvie at all," Walsh said.
“My goal this year was to play NRL. It has been pretty special. It's pretty crazy, looking back on it, it's been a crazy time, it's really special and I will always look back on this and cherish it."
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 NRL.com/tickets.