NSW coach Brad Fittler has targeted Queensland full-back Reece Walsh and vowed to let the Maroons rookie feel the heat of the State of Origin furnace.
The 20-year-old will make his Origin debut at the Adelaide Oval on Wednesday night after showing superb form for Brisbane earlier in the season.
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Walsh has 13 assists, eight line breaks and four tries in 11 games for the Broncos this season.
But Walsh has also made 19 errors in the NRL – the most of any Queenslander.
NSW half-back Nathan Cleary is ordered to test the Queensland no. 1, with Fittler keen to take advantage of Walsh’s inexperience.
“Any full-back that you have to put pressure on is isolated at the back,” Fittler said.
“Daly (Cherry-Evans) will do the same with our full-back.
“Reece you have to keep an eye on him everywhere, he’s a pretty fit guy who’s in the game a lot.
“It’s his first game and that’s important, so we’ll make sure he understands it’s a step up.”
But when Billy Slater was asked at Tuesday’s pre-game press conference if Walsh would struggle with the increased stakes in Origin football, the Maroons coach replied, “Have you seen Reece Walsh play?”
“We all make mistakes, I’ve made some in my time and will probably make some in the future.”
NSW captain and opposing full-back James Tedesco said there was nothing the young player could do to prepare for the pressure when he sets up a huge bombshell.
“It doesn’t matter if you play one or 20 (Origins), you’re still pretty nervous on the first catch,” Tedesco said.
“He’s been in great form and we have to reduce his time and space, that’s when he’s at his most dangerous.”
Five-Eighths Cameron Munster said Slater’s experience would ensure Walsh was ready for the power surge.
“Billy is one of the players who changed the position of full-back,” Munster said.
“Reecey will obviously continue to improve his game under Billy.
“He’ll make it easy for Reecey. Reecey has the pace and the skills.
“It’s just about making sure we bring out the X-Factor when we need it. I’m sure he will make Adelaide Oval shine.”
Munster is the Maroons’ talisman but said he would applaud on Wednesday night while Walsh strutted his stuff.
“I’ll avoid him and make sure I can give it to him… but I won’t support him,” Munster grinned.
“He’s so fast. I’ll just watch from a distance, clap my hands and say, ‘Go, Reecey, go’.”
Cherry-Evans said Walsh is a more complete player now than he was when he was without a debut in 2021 through injury.
“He’s going to be exciting, he’ll bring youth and energy and I can’t wait to play alongside him,” said Cherry-Evans.
“We almost had the opportunity to play for Queensland a couple of years ago as he trained all week before that moment was taken away from him by injury.
“Because of his experience in football, he is much better prepared today than he was then. I think he’s doing really well. He understands what his best footballer looks like.”