Reece Walsh a 'certain starter' for Broncos in huge State of Origin boost for Queensland

Reports had emerged that Walsh's knee injury could be worse than first thought - but those fears have been allayed.

Kevin Walters has told the Courier Mail that Reece Walsh is a certain starter for the Broncos' clash with the Titans on Sunday in a huge State of Origin boost for Queensland. The fullback missed the Broncos' last game against Manly after picking up knocks to both of his knees in recent weeks.

He'd been named to return against the Titans on Sunday, but reports emerged in recent days that Walsh's injury might be more serious than the Broncos are letting on. However Walters allayed those fears on Thursday night when he declared Walsh fit to make his return against the Gold Coast.

Selwyn Cobbo and Reece Walsh in action for Queensland in State of Origin.
Selwyn Cobbo could play fullback if Reece Walsh isn't fit to play the opening State of Origin game. Image: Getty

The 21-year-old ran strongly at training this week and has proven his fitness to return. Sunday's game against the Titans is the last Walsh will play before Billy Slater announces the Maroons team on Monday, and the opening game of the Origin series will take place the following Wednesday.

According to News Corp, Slater could consider playing Selwyn Cobbo at fullback if Walsh isn't able to play. Queensland are already without two of their top three fullback options, with Kalyn Ponga and AJ Brimson also out injured.

Cobbo filled in at the back for Walsh against the Sea Eagles, and Slater reportedly rang Walters last week and urged him to play Cobbo at fullback after Walsh was ruled out, in a huge hint at what the Maroons coach is thinking. Slater also has the option of using Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow at fullback, where he plays for the Dolphins, and naming Cobbo in the centres.

Reece Walsh and Tom Flegler after Game III in 2023.
Reece Walsh (L) missed the third Origin game last year due to suspension.


If Walsh is fit to play the Origin opener, Slater will have to leave out a big name from his backline. Cobbo is firming for a recall after missing the third game of last year's series, which means one of Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi or Xavier Coates would miss out.

Cobbo played the first game on the wing last year before missing the second through injury, and Slater stuck with Taulagi and Coates on the flanks for Game III. But Cobbo has been in brilliant form to start 2023, while Taulagi, Coates and Tabuai-Fidow have all been injured at various stages and Holmes' form has been patchy.

Selwyn Cobbo, pictured here in the opening State of Origin game in 2023.
Selwyn Cobbo scores a try in the opening State of Origin game in 2023.

Walters said Cobbo would be comfortable playing anywhere on the park. "[Fullback] is a totally different role to centre obviously, but Selwyn did some really good stuff at the back (against Manly)," the Broncos coach said this week. "He doesn't care what the score is. Selwyn just plays. Some of his carries and high balls he caught were at critical times when he pulled them off."

Brisbane and Queensland legend Darren Lockyer has even likened Cobbo to the great Greg Inglis. "You can put him centre, put him on the wing and put him at fullback and he will do the job," Lockyer said. "Tonight (against Manly) would do a lot for his (Origin) claims.

"He's gone from the wing and adapted to the centres really well and against good opposition (Manly) made a good fist of fullback in 80 minutes. From a selection point of view versatility definitely plays its part.

"As he's matured he has probably got a bit more discipline. He used to have a few mistakes in his game but he has got better in that department. There were concerns about how he would handle centre defensively but he doesn't miss his tackles. At fullback against Manly his error count was down and his work rate was up."

Slater is also facing a huge decision on who to pick at five-eighth to replace the injured Cameron Munster. Broncos player Ezra Mam revealed on Wednesday that he hasn't spoken to Slater in weeks, which could indicate Tom Dearden is going to get the nod after the Cowboys captain was 18th man last year.