Nathan Brown has discouraged Queensland head coach Billy Slater from choosing Reece Walsh if he needs a replacement fullback in the State of Origin series.
As his squad prepared for a game to be won this weekend, the Warriors coach dismissed suggestions that Matt Lodge’s sudden departure was the cause of the form failure that had the potential to ruin his squad’s final chances before coming home. in New Zealand in July.
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Despite having only made seven NRL games, Walsh was set to play in game two of last year’s Origin series after Kalyn Ponga, and AJ Brimson were sidelined by injuries.
However, the fairytale debut was not to be; Walsh suffered an injury himself before he could get on the field.
New Maroon’s coach Slater selected Ponga to play fullback for the first game on June 8 and removed Walsh from the expanded roster.
If Brown had his way, Ponga would play fullback for the rest of the series, giving Walsh at least another year to develop his game before earning an Origin debut.
“When you coach younger players, you want them to make Origin in a perfect world if they’re there physically and mentally,” said Brown.
“Reece has done one preseason so far. His first with the Broncos, he had calf surgery, so he came to us as a very unconditioned player just because he hadn’t trained much.
To illustrate his point, Brown compared Walsh to another fullback with a similar body type and skills.
“Ryan Papenhuyzen did three full preseasons with the Melbourne Storm before getting a first-class competition,” said Brown.
“For me, in a perfect world, Kalyn Ponga is playing very well this year (for Queensland), and Reece continues to develop his game as it is, and Reece has a very good preseason next year, getting some growth in his game and getting some consistency on some areas and Reece then starts challenging (for Origin).
Brown said that if Walsh made his debut before he was ready, he could underperform and ruin his chances for a long-term spot on the side.
“One thing I know has happened in Origin history is that if a guy gets deployed and it goes bad, it’s the player who gets the blame, not the selectors,” Brown said.
“You definitely don’t want a player in there unless necessary, in my opinion.
“There’s no point in being the youngest and not playing much; I’d rather Reece get there and stay there for eight or ten years.”
Camera Icon Nathan Brown’s Warriors are desperate for a win. NRL Photos Credit: The Daily Telegraph
Brown’s troops have already won two out of eight and can’t afford to lose against a fellow eighth squad ahead of tough matches with Cronulla and Penrith to round out the month.
Brown said Lodge’s abrupt departure would not derail preparations for Saturday’s pivotal collision at Brookvale Oval.
The Warriors released Lodge from the remainder of his contract late last month, and while Brown said his departure was not to blame for the losses to the Knights and Dragons, the coach admitted it had been a distraction.
“I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any minor issues for a while,” he said.
“Certainly, when those things happen behind the scenes, there’s no doubt that there are always issues that certainly don’t help the team.
“Matty has moved on, and we have moved on.
“Since then, I think we’ve made some progress, and I don’t think (Lodge’s departure) is a reason why we didn’t win our last two games.”