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Maroons mayhem: Reece Walsh OUT of Origin II

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26th June, 2021
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Injury in Queensland’s final training run has scuppered Reece Walsh’s much-hyped State of Origin debut.

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The 18-year-old fullback was set to feature for the Maroons after just seven NRL games in the host’s must-win clash at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.

He was scratched on Saturday night though, the Maroons reporting a low-grade hamstring strain suffered in the late stages of the team’s behind-closed-doors captain’s run.

Cronulla winger Ronaldo Mulitalo, who has been with the squad as an emergency all week, will debut instead and Valentine Holmes will revert to fullback.

Talk all week had surrounded Walsh’s shock call-up, the teenager not even among Brisbane’s top 30 at the start of the season in a call that prompted his early release to the Warriors.

Mulitalo, 21, will instead be the surprise debutant, the Sharks winger narrowly avoiding knee surgery this season and coming into calculations after the Maroons’ record 50-6 series-opening loss in Townsville.

While all the focus had been on Walsh and Queensland’s backline, Green has called on his forwards to set the tone.

He was happy to hear returning pack leader Josh Papalii had vowed to “take it personally” after suspension meant he was a helpless bystander in the opening game rout.

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Blues centres Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic were at their best thanks to the platform laid by their bigger men and Green knows that must change in Brisbane.

“We’re not going to stop him (Trbojevic) doing that (roaming on both sides of the field); it’s what he does well but being a bit more physical through the middle will help us handle those guys,” he said.

Reece Walsh

Reece Walsh is one of the NRL’s most exciting rookies. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“It’s an area, the middle part of the field, where it’s fair to say we were beaten in game one, so one we need to tighten up.

“It’s about controlling the play-the-ball better and if Josh said that (he’ll take it personally) that’s a good thing for us.

“It depends what you mean by (mongrel), but he wants to make sure our forwards are in the contest.”

Papalii will reunite with Christian Welch, who was an early casualty in Townsville thanks to a head knock.

Jai Arrow and Felise Kaufusi will start on the edges, with David Fifita moved to the bench in a switch Green hopes will provide defensive starch early and offensive punch late.

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Frank Molo will also make his Queensland debut under his former North Queensland coach, while another change in Ben Hunt is a proven performer in the tricky No.14 role.

Five-eighth Cameron Munster should also be a greater threat after a foot injury muddied his preparation for game one.

Munster sealed an unlikely series win for Queensland the last time he stepped onto Suncorp Stadium in maroon.

“A lot’s been said about his game one but we all know what he can do and I’m confident he can do it,” Green said.

© AAP

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