Another rugby league great has hit the Brisbane Broncos with a dagger over their loss of prodigious teenager Reece Walsh, whose brilliance lifted the New Zealand Warriors to a 30-26 victory over Wests Tigers at Central Coast Stadium tonight.
Warriors coach Nathan Brown shifted captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to a wing so Walsh could slot in at fullback – and the move proved to be inspired, Walsh collecting three try assists and bagging a try of his own in a phenomenal display.
The former Australian Schoolboys dynamo produced his first moment of magic when he hit left winger Marcelo Montoya with a two-man cut-out ball to send the ex-Bulldog over in the 11th minute.
What followed was another two-man cut-out pass to Tuivasa-Sheck on the right edge in the 32nd minute, which evaded the fingertips of Tigers winger Tommy Talau by just millimetres.
The first-half Walsh masterclass was rounded out with his own try when he tore through a gap off a Kodi Nikorima short ball from 18 metres out, icing the electric four-pointer with a ‘Superman’ dive much more synonymous with rugby union.
That prompted 2016 Cronulla Sharks premiership hooker Michael Ennis to rave about Walsh and jibe the Broncos over his defection to the Warriors.
“That balance, the speed, the athleticism, the tongue out. This kid is a freak, he is a freak!” Ennis said on Fox League’s coverage.
“How did they let him go, Brisbane? How did they let him go? Boy, oh, boy.
“This kid is just an absolute pearler.”
Walsh continued to shine in the second half when he exposed in exceptional fashion a defensive error of Tigers winger David Nofoaluma. The 150-game milestone man hurtled off the line and in from his wing, leaving Montoya unmarked on the touchline – and Walsh reached around him to throw a bulleting pass that sent the flyer over.
Walsh had dazzled at fullback, at five-eighth and in roles off the bench in the first four games of his NRL career, but he hadn’t produced a highlights reel as glowing as tonight’s.
Former six-Test Kangaroo Greg Alexander gave the 18-year-old a huge wrap.
“Reece Walsh is a great athlete with a football brain,” Alexander said.
“He is a fantastic player.”
Former Broncos captain Gorden Tallis loved that Brown had clearly given Walsh a license to play his natural game.
“It’s fair to say the Warriors haven’t given him too much structure,” Tallis said.
“They play the structure but they allow him to play his natural game as a young kid. It’s good to see. Those passes aren’t in the game plan. He’s going up there, he’s looking at numbers, hitting the winger. It’s refreshing.”
Alexander said Roosters coach Trent Robinson had handed prodigious halfback Sam Walker the same freedom and expects teen sensation Joseph Suaalii, who’s set to make his NRL debut on Saturday, permission to roam of his own.
“It’s the same thing Sam Walker’s been allowed to do at the Roosters, and I’m sure Joseph Suaalii will do the same when he plays tomorrow,” Alexander said.
“The coaches will just say, ‘Go out and play’.”