Reece Walsh could become the second-least experienced State of Origin player in history as an astonishing pick for Queensland, Maroons icon Wally Lewis says.
Queensland five-eighth Cameron Munster may miss the series opener due to injury and Lewis named Walsh – who has played just five NRL games, with a sixth coming this weekend – as a possible replacement.
The 18-year-old has starred for the Warriors since moving from Brisbane and would trail only Ben Ikin (four games) as the least experienced Origin rookie.
While selection seems a long shot, Walsh has the talent to be an Origin player according to ‘King Wally’. He can play fullback, five-eighth or utility and delivered a brilliant performance as the Warriors beat Wests Tigers last Friday.
“Corey Norman … and Reece Walsh as well,” Lewis said on Wide World of Sports’ QLDER, when asked for names to replace Munster.
“There will be plenty of people questioning if he’s old enough and I think you’ve heard me say it 100 times: if you’re good enough, you are old enough.”
Lewis said that Munster would be an “absolutely enormous” loss if not available for Origin I. Kalyn Ponga has been tipped to play five-eighth and AJ Brimson fullback if the Test No.6 is out.
That could leave a bench utility spot open, though a hooker pairing of Reed Mahoney and Harry Grant has been tipped by Queensland selector Darren Lockyer. Grant has had limited game time due to injury, which could see him at No.14 and Mahoney at No.9.
“That would be one of the toughest challenges for the Maroons before the series gets underway,” Lewis said of being without Munster, last year’s Wally Lewis Medallist in a shock series win for Queensland.
“Even in their training sessions leading up to game one, getting used to life without him. He’s been a very productive part of this team for a number of years now. He bears creative skills that very people in the game are blessed with.
“I’ve got to say, if we are without him in game one, it certainly is going to add more pressure to the Queensland team; pressure that really isn’t required for game one of a tournament.”
Munster is still battling a foot injury. Grant is also currently injured for Melbourne Storm (hamstring) but is rated a better chance than Munster of being fit for Origin.
While Munster has developed into a dominant force at Origin level, Grant made a brilliant debut off the bench in last year’s decider victory. Lewis is a massive fan of the hooker, who he believes can hold the Queensland No.9 jersey for a decade.
“This bloke is as good a footballer as I’ve seen at this age (23). He is a wonderfully talented player, has got time, has got space, and creates time and space for his intended ball receivers as well. I would be very surprised if he wasn’t in there.”
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