Ugly Reece Walsh truth exposed as Broncos cop devastating new blow in NRL defeat to Penrith

Brisbane's finals hopes are in jeopardy after their injury crisis went from bad to worse.

Reece Walsh played arguably his best game of the season for the Broncos on Friday night but it wasn't enough to stop Penrith claiming victory in the grand final rematch. Brisbane's NRL finals hopes took a brutal new blow as they went down 14-6 to the Panthers in what was a fifth straight defeat for Kevin Walters' side, with an injury to halfback Jock Madden compounding the issues at the Broncos.

Madden limped off with a hamstring injury early in the second half and Walters says he expects the playmaker to be out for at least a month in a devastating new setback for the side. It means Brisbane will be forced to turn to their fourth-string option at halfback against the Dragons next weekend, with skipper Adam Reynolds and rookie Cody Black also sidelined with injury. Walters has indicated Josh Rogers will be handed the reins for just his third game in the NRL after impressing earlier in the season.

Reece Walsh scored a superb try against Penrith but his Broncos side were rocked by an injury to halfback Jock Madden. Pic: Getty
Reece Walsh scored a superb try against Penrith but his Broncos side were rocked by an injury to halfback Jock Madden. Pic: Getty

The injury to Madden forced Walsh to step up for the Broncos on Friday night, with the livewire No.1 taking on most of the kicking duties and the bulk of the playmaking responsibility. But once again, the Broncos failed to get much going in attack as their lack of points and reliance on Walsh to create some magic were called out by a number of rugby league greats. And with Walsh set to miss Brisbane's next match on Origin duty, it represents a massive headache for Walters' side.

“The worrying thing for Brisbane is the lack of points, averaging 13 the last three weeks in their losses, only six tonight and they did not look like scoring too many more,” Paul Vautin said on Nine's coverage. “But it seems now if Reece Walsh is not doing something, making breaks for the Broncos, that nothing is happening. Ezra Mam was quiet tonight.” Brad Fittler added: “When Jock Madden went off, Reece had to pretty much do everything. He started to have to do all the thinking as well.”

Walsh fired his side into a 6-4 halftime lead after slicing through Penrith's defensive line before sprinting around fullback Dylan Edwards to score a brilliant individual try. But the Panthers showed their premiership credentials by being able to grind out an eight-point win in slippery conditions at Suncorp Stadium's with second half tries to Brian To'o and Mitch Kenny sealing victory.

Penrith Panthers players celebrate a try in their NRL victory against the Broncos. Pic: Getty
Penrith Panthers players celebrate a try in their NRL victory against the Broncos. Pic: Getty

The loss means Walters' side have slipped further away from the top eight and could be as low as 12th by the end of round 18. They may need to win 6 out of their last 8 games to qualify for the finals. And the task will be even harder against the Dragons next week without their Origin stars Walsh, Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan.

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While Walters has already indicated Rogers will step in to fill the No.7 role at the injury-hit Broncos, club great Corey Parker believes shifting hooker Billy Walters into the halves and starting Tyson Smoothy at No.9 would be the "least disruptive" move. “It will be interesting for Kevvie Walters and the coaching staff to come up with a side next week with no Adam Reynolds, no Jock Madden,” Parker said. “Coby Black, the 18-year-old they have touted to go and do good things in the No. 7 has thumb ligament damage.

“I would assume moving forward that maybe they’ll put Billy Walters into the No. 7 jersey, maybe Josh Rogers comes back into that fold. But Billy Walters was playing No. 7 at the end there, and then Smoothy to start at No. 9 (next week). That would be the least disruptive move for the Broncos.”

with AAP