Origin legend Thurston accuses Blues of ‘targeting’ superstar Reece

Queensland assistant coach Johnathan Thurston has accused NSW of putting a target on Reece Walsh, after Blues centre Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii was sent off for a high tackle that left the Maroons fullback concussed and out of the game.

Jun 06, 2024, updated Jun 06, 2024
Maroons assistant coach Johnathan Thurston and trainer Allan Langer during State of Origin game 2. .(AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Maroons assistant coach Johnathan Thurston and trainer Allan Langer during State of Origin game 2. .(AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Suaalii is facing four weeks on the sidelines with an early guilty plea after the forceful shot to Walsh’s head in the eighth minute of the Maroons’ 38-10 win in Wednesday’s State of Origin series opener in Sydney.

“Everyone has seen it and it was unfortunate for Suaalii making his debut,” Maroons great Thurston said.

“It was direct, forceful contact to the head and they clearly had a target on (Walsh) … the officials had no other option.”

Queensland team manager Nate Myles – who played 32 Origin games for the Maroons – gave Suaalii a spray as he left the field, telling the NSW man to “enjoy your debut”.

Myles said the Blues muffed their tactical ploy to nullify Walsh, who was hit hard on the ground by forward Liam Martin just minutes before the Suaalii incident.

“(Suaalii) got it wrong and … it’s not a good look for the game,” Myles said.

“Controlled aggression is key now. Controlled aggression isn’t hitting the right spot every time, it’s what you do on every play.

“A good side sticks to their tactics and doesn’t get it wrong.

“That play on Reece out the back, they didn’t get it right.”

Myles said he wasn’t suggesting Walsh needed to be wrapped in cotton wool.

“No one needs protecting, it’s rugby league, but there’s rules in place,” he said.

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“We want the game to prosper. It’s going terrific, but we have to look after players and keep them on the field.

“When (Walsh) came back to the bench, I knew he was OK, but there’s a safety protocol and there’s a reason why guys don’t play back-to-back games anymore.

“It would have been good to see a young man like Reece go at the game.”

Maroons flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow switched from centre to fullback when Walsh went off and had a blinder, scoring three tries.

The ‘Hammer’ was stunned by the Suaalii hit and said the Blues centre got what he deserved.

“It is a bad one, straight to the head,” Tabuai-Fidow said.

“It is something we are trying to get out of the game to protect the players. He’s alright now.

“I wasn’t surprised at all. I watched it back on the big screen and it was straight to the head. We all knew he was going to get sent off.”

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