Reece Walsh's unseen act in Queensland camp comes to light after State of Origin 1 incident

The Maroons fullback is putting in extra work ahead of Game 2.

Reece Walsh will make his return in State of Origin 2 at the MCG on Wednesday night, in what will be his first match since being knocked out by Joseph Suaalii just eight minutes into the series opener. And the Maroons star is leaving no stone unturned as he looks to come back from his concussion layoff with a bang.

Walsh's game is punctuated with flashy brilliance and plenty of showboating, but behind closed doors he is a student of the game. And his desire to improve and willingness to put in the work to ensure it happens was perfectly encapsulated by his actions in the Maroons camp on Saturday.

Pictured Reece Walsh
Reece Walsh is putting in extra work ahead of Game 2. Image: Getty

In what was the side's most physical session to date ahead of Game 2, players trained for two hours at their Sanctuary Cove camp on the Gold Coast, where coach Billy Slater kept a watchful eye on all his stars. But what caught the eye of onlookers - including leading journalist Peter Badel - was the handful of Queensland players who stayed on the training paddock to put in some extra reps after the scheduled training had finished.

As the remaining group slowly weened as players finished their extras and coach Slater and captain Daly Cherry-Evans left the facility, Walsh was spotted continuing to fine-tune his game. The Queensland No.1 was the only player left on the ground as he practised his goal-kicking before drilling his passing by throwing balls at the goalposts before calling it a day some 30-odd minutes after everyone else had left.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20: Reece Walsh during a Queensland State of Origin training session at Sanctuary Cove on June 20, 2024 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
After everyone had left training on Saturday, Reece Walsh continued to practice his passing and kicking game.

His Queensland teammate and notorious workhorse Reuben Cotter said Walsh's work ethic and championship mindset is why he has become a star at such a young age. “He just has the work ethic,” Cotter told The Courier Mail. “He is a great player and one of the best this game has seen.

“He’s a real worker. I love the way he competes, he is always wanting to make his teammates and those around him want to be better. He is very competitive.”

Tom Deardon said Walsh being the last player on the training ground is anything but a rarity. "It shows how hard he works on his game,” Dearden said. “The stuff he does on the weekend is miraculous, but it shows it’s not just a fluke. He is always out here working hard on his game and that’s why he plays so well on the weekends and in games. He obviously has the lightning speed, but just at training and even in games, he always wants to be in the game. That’s what makes him so special."

The Blues clearly had a plan to target Walsh in Game 1 and apply as much pressure on the young fullback as possible. Despite his brilliance with the ball in hand, Walsh is prone to making errors and despite Suaalii's hit backfiring in Game 1, Liam Martin says the Blues won't be afraid to go after Walsh again - in a fair way - at the MCG.

"I treat it the exact same. It doesn't change," Martin said in NSW camp this week. "He's such a key for them so we'll be going after him. We're obviously not intentionally going there to hurt or injure him. It's part of the game. Nothing will change."

RELATED:

Some people have suggested the hit from Suaalii could see Walsh become somewhat 'gun shy' in Origin 2 and more wary with the ball in hand. But the Queensland No.1 insists that won't be the case.

"If I had any doubts or was scared I wouldn't pull on the Queensland jersey," he said. "I know how much it means to the people of Queensland and past players. They need a team that is willing to put their body on the line and do whatever for their state. If I was scared or shy in any way I would pull myself out."

Walsh was forced to miss the last two Broncos games due to the NRL's mandatory 11-day stand-down period but has passed all concussion tests and has been cleared to return to action in Game 2. He admitted he was somewhat relieved that Billy Slater picked him at fullback again after Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scored a hat-trick in Game 1 when switching to the No.1 role from centre.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 05:  Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow of the Maroons makes a break to score a tryduring game one of the 2024 Men's State of Origin Series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 05, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow starred in Game 1 for the Maroons at fullback.

Tabuai-Fidow plays fullback for the Dolphins and his red-hot form has led many to suggest that he should be the Maroons' No.1 rather than Walsh. But Slater opted to stick with Walsh for Game 2, much to his relief.

"I knew I had the protocols to go through and there was a bit of persuading with Bill to get my job back because Hammer killed it,"' Walsh said. "That was a bit tough but I just had to tick all the boxes. I am grateful for Bill giving me the opportunity."

"Hammer is phenomenal with what he brings to a footy team. You can't coach speed and it is hard to go up against speed. I am just glad he is in my team and I can use his skills and back him up. I know he is going to do the same for me."