MAROONS CALL UP WALSH FOR STUNNING ORIGIN DEBUT

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Warriors sensation Reece Walsh has capped one of the most meteoric rises in State of Origin history, named at fullback for Queensland ahead of a must-win game two assignment at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night – after just seven NRL appearances.

Walsh will wear the Maroons’ No.1 jumper with Kalyn Ponga and AJ Brimson unavailable, and series-opening custodian Valentine Holmes shifting to the wing to replace the injured Xavier Coates.

At 18 years and 352 days old, Walsh will become the youngest Origin player in 26 years and the fourth-youngest of all time. But the responsibility, expectation and pressure on his shoulders will be far greater than that experienced by the only other 18-year-olds to feature in arguably the game’s toughest arena: bench bolters Ben Ikin (Queenlsand, 1995) and Brad Fittler (NSW, 1990), and winger Brett Dallas (Queensland, 1993), who debuted in a dead-rubber.

Warriors coach Nathan Brown has repeatedly warned against pitching his playmaking prodigy into the Origin cauldron, as has club consultant – and the Blues’ greatest-ever coach – Phil Gould (who ironically was Fittler’s Penrith coached when he received his first Blues call-up). But the likes of Maroons icon Wally Lewis had peddled the ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’ line, while fellow Queensland legend Cameron Smith has wholeheartedly backed the selection gamble.

And Walsh has certainly proved he is good enough, scoring four tries, making seven line-breaks and 25 tackle-breaks, and producing eight try-assists in a blistering start to his NRL career after getting an early release to join the Warriors from Brisbane.

He has been a cut above his Warriors teammates in virtually every outing to date – and the desperate Queensland hierarchy found his extraordinary natural ability, confidence and X-factor irresistible as they seek to reverse a horrific 50-6 loss in game one and force a decider.

Walsh also becomes just the Warriors’ seventh Origin representative and first since Jacob Lillyman in 2017, as well as being only the third to debut from the club and the first since PJ Marsh in 2003.

WARRIORS ORIGIN REPRESENTATIVES
Kevin Campion (Queensland) – 2001-02: 4 matches (won 2, lost 2) – 0 points
PJ Marsh (Queensland) – 2002-03: 3 matches (won 1, lost 1, drew 1) – 0 points
Steve Price (Queensland) – 2005-09: 12 matches (won 9, lost 3) – 4 points (1 try)
Brent Tate (Queensland) – 2008: 3 matches (won 2, lost 1) – 4 points (1 try)
Jacob Lillyman (Queensland) – 2011, 2014-17: 10 matches (won 6, lost 4) – 0 points
Ryan Hoffman (New South Wales) – 2015: 3 matches (won 1, lost 2) – 0 points

YOUNGEST STATE OF ORIGIN PLAYERS
Ben Ikin (Queensland) – 18 years, 83 days in 1995
Brad Fittler (NSW) – 18 years, 114 days in 1990
Brett Dallas (Queensland) – 18 years, 225 days in 1993
Reece Walsh (Queensland) – 18 years, 352 days in 2021*
William Hopoate (NSW) – 19 years, 37 days in 2011

*If he debuts on Sunday

A SHORT HISTORY OF…WARRIORS IN STATE OF ORIGIN

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