Warriors coach Nathan Brown brought teenage star Reece Hodge back down to earth after an impressive performance in his side’s victory over the Wests Tigers.
The 18-year-old started at fullback sending Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to the wing because of an injury to Ken Maumalo, and had three try assists and a try in the 30-26 victory.
Commentators were left gushing over the teenager’s display but Brown watered down his praise for the young star and pointed to an early defensive lapse allowed the opposition to open the scoring.
Reece Walsh finds space and scores
“You blokes only highlight all the good parts, but he’s got some parts he needs to work on, too, as 18-year-olds should.
“He is working hard and he’s a good learner and good listener.
“He’s an 18-year-old kid, isn’t he? When Andrew Johns was 18 or 19 it took Joey about four or five years before he was capable to take the Knights to a premiership, and he is one of our most influential players ever.
“Just game experience and learning, but the defensive work at fullback these days, there’s a lot of pressure on them. From Reece’s first game to now, he has improved out of sight. He is working hard at that part of his game.
“Things like knowing what type of kick to do, because he kicks the ball well but what type of kick in the game situation, those are things he will learn from experience.”
Rather than heap praise on the former Broncos player, who was released by Red Hill this season, Brown took the tempered approach and spread the love.
“Tohu Harris was our best player tonight. Reece was outstanding but Tohu Harris was our best player,” Brown said.
“Reece has got a skillset that a lot of other 18-year-olds don’t really have. Young (Sam) Walker has been doing it, Reece did it for us tonight, the young (Daine) Laurie for (the Tigers) is doing it.
“He’s well-mannered, he’s got a bit of confidence as you would expect… he’s confident but not over-confident, he’s a decent young kid. With you characters giving him all these raps all the time we’ve just got to make sure we keep him a bit grounded.
“He’s a good kid, he’s well-mannered and polite and down to earth, but he’s confident.”
Brown expressed frustration over the media’s coverage of Walsh, saying the speedy fullback has work to do if he wants to be a complete player.
The 18-year-old was meant to play off the bench but an injury to Maumalo saw skipper Tuivasa-Sheck move to the back to give Walsh an opportunity considering he’ll be out of the code next year.