While NZ Warriors coach Nathan Brown is concerned that State of Origin selection would be too tough for whizz kid Reece Walsh, who should deprive him of making $15,000 a game in the three-game series?
About to turn 19 on Thursday, Reece has been a sensation since the Brisbane Broncos released him to the Warriors in April.
As an attacker, be it at fullback or at No 6, he has vision, exceptional acceleration and the ability to beat defenders with a dummy, sidestep or swerve.
With experts of the ilk of Wally ‘The King’ Lewis pushing for his selection in the Queensland State of Origin team it would be cruel to deny him the chance despite his youth and light 88kg frame.
It should be remembered that All Black Damian McKenzie thrives on the biggest stages weighing a mere 81kg without every shirking the tough stuff. Admittedly a better tackler than Reece, their scintillating attack has much in common.
Born in Australia to an indigenous father and a Maori birth mother, the left-footed Walsh kicked six goals from six attempts in the 2019 State of Origin Under-18 match and scored a try for Australian Schoolboys in their 36-20 win against the Junior Kiwis that same year.
He cites his main reason for joining the Warriors was to learn from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck who unselfishly moved to the wing to allow Walsh to develop his talent at fullback.
Sadly, having been ravaged by injuries, especially that to 118kg power prop Addin Fonua-Blake, the Warriors continue to lose more than they win. Despite that, Walsh has thrived with his elusive running and cut-out passes setting up tries.
And no-one is more appreciative of his talent than former Dally M Medal winner Tuivasa-Sheck who is to switch codes and make an All Blacks bid by playing for the Blues next year.
That’s a huge gamble given the calibre of fullbacks Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan present although Beauden has expressed his preference for the first-five test spot Richie Mo’unga holds.
With young Zarn Sullivan also developing nicely at fullback, the Blues may be tempted to try Tuivasa-Sheck at centre or wing.
Meanwhile the decision to allow cricketer Devon Conway to make his test debut at Lords against England has reaped its reward with a magnificent record-breaking 200 at a time when established stars Kane Williamson (13) and Ross Taylor (14) struggled.
South Africa’s loss was New Zealand’s gain when Conway moved to Wellington three years ago and set the game alight for the Firebirds before starring for the Black Caps over the past summer in the shorter forms of the game.
It wasn’t until two days before the Lords test that the 29-year-old knew he would make his test debut and he crowned the occasion in majestic fashion with his double century.
He became the 12th New Zealander to score a century on test debut, the 14th overall to score one at Lords and he surpassed Sourav Ganguly’s record 131 by a test debutant on the same hallowed ground.
In doing so he also surpassed captain Kane Williamson’s record 131 test debut outside New Zealand.
In joining gutsy bowler Neil Wagner and soon-to-retire wicketkeeper BJ Watling, Conway is the third South African-born gold nugget to enrich the current Black Caps.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer