Billy Slater facing huge Origin call on Reece Walsh in new twist around Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

The Queensland coach is facing a pivotal decision for State of Origin 3 at Suncorp Stadium.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has been cleared of serious injury and will be fit for State of Origin 3, in news that could have huge ramifications for Reece Walsh and Queensland. Many have suggested Tabuai-Fidow might be a better option at fullback for the Maroons, and Walsh's display in Game 2 on Wednesday night only fuelled the debate.

Walsh was playing his first game since being knocked out by Joseph Suaalii just seven minutes into the series opener in Sydney, and showed plenty of rust. He failed to fire with ball in hand and wasn't given many opportunities to shine behind a badly-beaten Queensland forward pack.

Reece Walsh and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (R) will be fit for Origin 3, which could be bad news for Reece Walsh (L). Image: AAP/Getty

His defence was also a big concern and the 21-year-old was found out of position on a number of NSW tries. Queensland coach Billy Slater was adamant before Game 2 that Walsh wouldn't have any demons from the Suaalii incident, and insisted the young gun was the team's first-choice fullback.

Reece Walsh and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow during State of Origin 2.
Reece Walsh and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in action for Queensland in State of Origin 2. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

But Slater might be forced to make a brutal call on the 21-year-old for Game 3 at Suncorp Stadium. Many have suggested that Tabuai-Fidow is actually the better fullback option, but his availability for the series decider was thrown into doubt when he suffered a shoulder injury at the MCG.

But the Dolphins revealed on Friday evening that Tabuai-Fidow will only miss one NRL game (Sunday against the Dragons) and be available for Origin 3. With Walsh and Tabuai-Fidow both at his disposal, Slater faces a potentially pivotal call on who plays in the No.1 jersey at Suncorp.

Walsh and Tabuai-Fidow are both X-factors who can turn a game on its head, but both have errors and defensive frailties in their games. Walsh's performances in the first two games last year (both Queensland wins) will likely see him retain the fullback role due to Slater's penchant for remaining loyal to players who have got the job done before.

But it remains to be seen whether Walsh would have got the nod if Kalyn Ponga was available. Ponga had a superb series in 2022 before opting against playing in 2023 to focus on club footy with Newcastle.

Walsh took his opportunity with both hands in 2023, and was in a shootout with Ponga in 2024 before the Knights fullback went down with a serious foot injury. Ponga isn't due back until Round 20 or 21 for the Knights, meaning he'll miss the entire Origin series this year.

Slater probably isn't even considering dumping Walsh, but there's certainly a lot of debate around who should be playing fullback for the Maroons. Channel 9 columnist 'The Mole' wrote on social media this week: "Should QLD move Hammer to fullback and make Walsh a 'super sub'????" And plenty of fans showed their support for the switch.

Slater was tight-lipped on Wednesday night when discussing whether he'd make changes for Game 3. "We're still Queenslanders," he said - comments which sparked criticism. "We're from Queensland...I haven't thought about it. We're still Queenslanders. That's it. I honestly haven't thought about it."

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Slater has overlooked Titans wrecking ball David Fifita for the first two games, but the massive loss in Game 2 will surely see him recalled. Fifita played in all three games of the Maroons' series victory in 2023, but Slater axed him for Game 1 in 2024 and claimed he hadn't found the same form this year.

Selwyn Cobbo is also a good shout to come back in after he was axed for Game 2. The Broncos player was brilliant in Game 1 as the bench utility, but Slater chose to sit him out for the second game for a physical and mental rest.