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Renouf: Why Walsh is mature enough to handle Origin cauldron

Nobody in Queensland expects Reece Walsh to win the Origin game for the Maroons on Sunday.

There are two ways you can look at this surprise selection of an 18-year-old kid, just seven games into his NRL career, picked to play fullback for Queensland.

You can probably say it is a little bit too early in his career. To be honest that was my initial concern.

I had a little bit of hesitation but the more I think about it, the more I consider what I’ve seen from him since he came into first grade, the more I think he is mature enough in the head to handle the step up.

The fact is Reece is playing first grade rugby league and performing at a very high level, you tend to get noticed when you hit the NRL all guns blazing.

But this hasn’t just come out of nowhere. He has been coming through the Queensland junior system for a long time now. He has played junior Origin.

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He knows what it’s like to pull on the Maroons jersey and the pride that comes with that honour.

I have no doubt he will step up on Sunday. Will he change the way the game is played? I don’t know.

I hope people within the Maroons camp are saying to him the pressure is not on you to do that, do not carry any expectations into the game. Just give him a simple role that he can execute. Anything else is a bonus.

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He seems a lot more mature than most 18-year-olds, he is enthusiastic and he looks good on the ground.

We have seen in the NRL that he has points in him and from how the game is being played this year – especially with the rule changes and six-agains – the speed of the game should suit his style.

I don’t think we will see the old-school grinding Origin - there will be points scored and I know I feel better seeing a player like Reece with the ball in his hands.

That attacking style of footy is what he does best.

I never like to compare players. He is his own individual and that is what he has to remember. He has got to where he is without all that baggage of being called the next so and so.

He got there with his natural ability and the way he plays his footy. You just encourage that. I never like to pressure any of those young players by comparing them to whoever.

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To me there’s little things he can learn off players who have gone before him and that’s a good thing, you never think you know better. But never change your style to suit someone else.

I just think he is a great attacking footy player and he plays what is in front of him.

I know he’s spoken to Billy Slater in camp and he is one fullback he can learn from – especially how he organised the defence.

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Billy was the best at that, it’s about keeping that mouth going and helping out the boys in the front line. But when he has the ball in his hand, just do what you do mate.

What will make his job easier is if Queensland can win the battle in the middle and with Josh Papalii back from suspension and hopefully Christian Welch playing more than 12 minutes, the Maroons can get the best of that contest.

When Welch was on in Origin I he was bending the line and we all know what damage Papalii can do, so we should have the double whammy going and that will make a big difference.

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With those two boys leading up the front it means guys like Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans will get a lot more room to move and Walsh can play off the back of them.

I think Queensland were a bit stunned in that first game with how NSW won the middle and their attacking game got truncated a bit. Papa and Welch will make a big difference.

It all goes back to what NSW did so well in Origin I and that was attacking in every area of the game and being aggressive in every area of the game.

Attack with your defence, pressure the back three with your kick chase, run hard with ball in hand.  Those are all the little things NSW did well and it’s what our two big boys do so well.

With those two big boppers leading the way in the middle, Queensland’s younger forwards and outside backs are much more likely to follow their lead.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.