Reece Walsh will become the youngest player to play in a State of Origin game since Ben Ikin in 1995.
The 18-year-old will play his first game after just seven first-grade games for the New Zealand Warriors after leaving the Brisbane Broncos because coach Kevin Walters didn’t think the young star was ready for the NRL.
Walsh has shot up to first choice fullback after frontrunners Kalyn Ponga and AJ Brimson were ruled out with injury.
Despite the surprise call up, Walsh feels he is ready for the big stage and he trusts his teammates to help him out.
“I feel like they boys will really look after me out there and make the job as easy as possible,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
To play for the Maroons was a boyhood dream for Walsh and the reality of the whole situation is still sinking in.
“I’m still pinching myself, walking around with a bunch of stars is pretty special,” he said.
“It is something you dream of as a little kid and to get the opportunity to play for my state, to play for Queensland, is pretty special and pretty overwhelming to be honest.”
It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for the teen sensation, moving clubs and quickly becoming a household name.
Despite no longer being at the Broncos and so far proving Walters wrong, Walsh doesn’t believe he has a point to prove.
“I don’t have a point to prove to Kevy,” he said.
“If you look back on its been a crazy time, but it’s a year I’m going to look back on and cherish
“I got a really good opportunity at the Warriors to build as a person and as a player so I took the opportunity.”
Walsh believes the guidance of Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has helped fast track his development.
Tuivasa-Sheck had been the Warriors first choice fullback for a number of years but after his decision to play rugby union come the end of the year, he graciously moved to the wing so he could help Walsh learn his craft.
“Roger has been massive for where I am now,” he said.
“I came into the Warriors system not knowing too much about fullback.
“He has really sat down and spent quality time with me and helped me get to where I am now.”
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Tuivasa-Sheck is one of many idols that will help Walsh reach his full potential.
Growing up Walsh idolised Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater, who he has already had a chance to chat with in camp.
“I spoke with Billy yesterday afternoon and went through a couple of things.
“You see that sort of person play for Queensland when you’re a little kid, and for myself he was someone I looked up to, so to have a chat with him was pretty special.”
Many have slammed Queensland’s decision to instill the young fullback into their fledgling side.
Former Blues coach and commentator Phil Gould was one who questioned the decision.
“To bring him into a team that was beaten 50-6 in Game One I think is a disgraceful decision by the Queensland selectors,” he said on Monday night.
“To be asking an 18-year-old to come in and this problem is not fair on the kid.”
Despite these comments Walsh believes he is ready and up for the fight.
“Everyone is going to have their opinion,” he said.
“You can’t go out there thinking you’re not ready or holding back because you’re going out there for your mates, your state and your family.
“You don’t want to go out there half hearted.”
The biggest challenge for the youngster will be organising the team defensively, but Walsh is adamant he won’t be overawed by the telling his teammates where to be.
“I feel like that is a big part of my game, I’m still getting used to it now but that is something I bring and something I can keep working on as a person over my career.”
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