Outstanding Vodafone Warriors fullback Reece Walsh has picked up two NRL rookie of the year accolades in just 48 hours.
Already anointed with the honour at the Vodafone Warriors awards 10 days ago, the 19-year-old was today named the Rugby League Players’ Association rookie of the year, finishing over the top of Sydney Roosters debutant Sam Walker.
And on Friday Walsh was also revealed as winner of the 2021 NRL Nation MEGT rookie of the year award bestowed by the Sport and Entertainment Network (SEN). Again he edged Walker for that honour.
The two young Queenslanders are both vying for the still-to-be-announced Dally M rookie of the year title while Walsh is also one of the Vodafone Warriors’ four nominees for The Players’ Champion award run by the RLPA.
Accepting the RLPA award via Zoom on Channel 9’ NRL Sunday Footy Show, Walsh said: “It’s pretty crazy and still surreal to receive this award. There’s a lot of great rookies to come through this year, so I'm pretty humbled to receive it.
It’s pretty crazy and still surreal to receive this awardReece Walsh The Players' Champion rookie of the year
"[The NRL] was everything and more coming up into first grade. It was early, I didn't think I was going to get my crack this year.
"I was lucky enough to get that... I'm still pinching myself."
Walsh made his debut against Melbourne on Anzac Day going on to make 16 appearances while Walker coincidentally made his first appearances against the Vodafone Warriors on April 4 and finished his rookie campaign with his 21st match in Friday night’s finals loss to Manly Warringah.
Rarely has a rookie made the kind of impact Walsh did in debut match.
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 heavily beaten, Walsh had caught the eye in a way few rookies do.
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, 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 tally of 53 tackle breaks was second only to Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s 81 and he was second to Kodi Nikorima for most points with 78 (Nikorima had 100).