Reece Walsh and Taylan May incident sparks heated TV clash between NRL greats

Paul Gallen didn't see eye-to-eye with Brad Fittler and Johnathan Thurston.

Paul Gallen has clashed with Brad Fittler and Johnathan Thurston in a fiery on-air debate about whether Taylan May should have been penalised for his contact on Reece Walsh. Broncos fullback Walsh suffered a nasty gash below his eye and was knocked out of Brisbane's clash with the Panthers in the early minutes on Thursday night.

May came rushing in to attempt to shut down a Broncos attacking raid, and collided head-first with Walsh after he passed the ball. Walsh and May hit each other face-first, leaving the Broncos fullback bleeding from a cut below his left eye.

Brad Fittler and Johnathan Thurston, pictured here clashing with Paul Gallen about Reece Walsh.
Brad Fittler and Johnathan Thurston didn't agree with Paul Gallen's take on the Taylan May and Reece Walsh incident. Image: Channel 9

The young gun tried to return to the game after getting five stitches, but reported trouble with his vision and sat out the rest of the contest. Scans have since revealed Walsh suffered a facial fracture, meaning he will likely miss the next 4-6 weeks of footy.

But the news is better for the Panthers, with May escaping charge by the match review committee. The Bunker ruled during the game that May had a responsibility to bend into the tackle to avoid making contact with the head.

Debate erupts over Reece Walsh and Taylan May incident

Opinion has been heavily divided over whether or not May's actions warranted a penalty - let alone a suspension. Discussing the incident on Channel 9 after the game, Gallen was firmly of the belief that it was simply an accident.

"It was a head clash," Gallen said. "He can't control where Reece Walsh steps or what Reece Walsh does. He didn't even tackle him, he tried to stop and brace himself for a collision. It's a collision sport."

Taylan May and Reece Walsh.
Taylan May and Reece Walsh collided head-first. Image: Channel 9

But Fittler and Thurston strongly disagreed. Fittler said: "I understand it's an accident. But when you come in on someone's blind side you are responsible to tackle below their shoulders. You are totally responsible because you can see. It's contact above the shoulders. You can control how high you tackle."

Thurston added: "You've got a duty of care. And you can tell he hasn't even gone in for a tackle. You've got to lower your target. When you come in like that you've got to lower your target."

Kevin Walters and Ivan Cleary have their say

Broncos coach Kevin Walters said he didn't get a good view of the hit, and labelled it as "just one of those things that happen". Counterpart Ivan Cleary said: "No-one wants to see the best players go off, but I just saw it as an accident.

"I thought he was trying to pull out of the tackle, he was directly upright, which is not how you tackle. If he had of bent down, he probably would have hit him in the head with his shoulder. Reece Walsh moves pretty fast, these things happen. I'm not too concerned about that."


Fox League commentator Andrew Voss was also gobsmacked that May had been penalised. “Ok then, if it’s illegal and the player is wounded and that player is now off, can you follow the logic process of that?” Voss asked.

“I don’t support the decision at first impression. Has the game just been rewritten how it’s played?

“I don’t agree with the penalty. The fact is they’ve blown it. Wounded player, now off the field, potentially gone for the game, and there’s no sin bin?

“I mean, any other high tackle, you’re off to the bin. I don’t get it, I’m sorry. Duty of care, there’s a lot of accidents in our game and this is an accident.”