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Walsh races away with club's rookie of the year accolade

While six players made their NRL debuts with the Vodafone Warriors this year, there was never any question about the dazzling Reece Walsh claiming the club’s rookie of the year award.

Rarely has a rookie made such an impact from the moment he made his debut.

Much was anticipated when the then 18-year-old joined the Vodafone Warriors from the Brisbane Broncos in April.

The hype was more than justified.

Walsh immediately lit up the training field with his precocious ability and then did just the same when he was handed his first-grade debut within a matter of days of coming into camp.

He wasn’t just making his debut against any side but against the well-oiled Melbourne Storm on one of the biggest occasions of the year, the annual Anzac Day contest between the traditional rivals.

It was a difficult night as the Vodafone Warriors felt the Storm’s full force as they blasted to a 26-4 halftime lead and then 42-10 before a rally enabled the visitors to pull it back to 20-42.

At the forefront of it was an assured teenager who put himself about in all areas of the game. He not only wanted the ball in his hands as often as possible but he wanted to kick off, to kick for touch, to kick on the last, take shots at goal and be constantly involved as a playmaker.

It was there to see in the opening moments when he was at first receiver, throwing a lovely long ball for left winger Ken Maumalo to score the first of his three tries that night. And later in the game he was a central figure in Maumalo’s second and third tries.

In a side so heavily beaten, Walsh had been outrageously impressive putting on a debut show to match the likes of Brad Fittler and Sonny Bill Williams.

There was more, much more, to come across the rest of the season including State of Origin selection after just a handful of first-grade games; in the end a hamstring injury ruled him out.

There were testing moments as well among all that was so good but Walsh kept bouncing back, one of his clear strengths. If he made an error, he would rebound rather than recoil.

To remember his first season is to recall so many spectacular tries and deeds. His has been a very good start to an NRL career, beyond very good.

Despite being a tyro he was the team’s top try scorer with nine in 16 matches while he was also the most prolific try creator with 11 try assists and had the most line breaks – 14 – of any player in the side. His 53 tackle breaks rated second only to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s 81 and he also was second to Kodi Nikorima for most points with 78 (Nikorima had 100).

Not bad, not bad at all.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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