Suaalii cops four-game ban for Origin hit on Walsh

Jasper Bruce |

Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii has become only the sixth player in Origin history to be sent from the field.
Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii has become only the sixth player in Origin history to be sent from the field.

Joseph Suaalii’s State of Origin career could be over after just seven minutes of action unless he one day returns to the NRL, with the NSW star facing a four-game ban for the shot that knocked out Reece Walsh.

The NSW debutant was sent from the field for hitting Walsh high and late during the Maroons’ 38-10 win on Wednesday night in Sydney.

With an early guilty plea he won’t be able to play before teams are picked for Origin III on July 17.

If he challenges his grade-two reckless high tackle charge, he will receive a five-match ban for the shot that thwarted the Blues’ hopes of victory at Accor Stadium.

It’s a bitter blow for Suaalii, who is no guarantee of ever playing Origin again given he is hopping codes to play rugby union from 2025, with no return to rugby league confirmed.

Reece Walsh.
Reece Walsh receives treatment after being floored by Joseph Suaalii. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

Walsh had been targeted by the Blues defence early and lay motionless on the ground, apparently unconscious, after receiving the hit from Suaalii.

Queensland teammates, and then staff, attended to the Maroons fullback on-field.

Play continued downfield before referee Ash Klein pulled Suaalii and new Blues captain Jake Trbojevic aside.

“That is a very dangerous action, there is direct contact to the head. You’re off,” the referee said to Suaalii.

NSW coach Michael Maguire questioned why Walsh had been sent from the field when Penrith centre Taylan May had not been sin-binned for head-on-head contact on Walsh earlier this year.

“Disappointing to see him get sent off, but that’s the way they called it,” Maguire said.

“It’s a big call at this level. Reece was falling, I’ll have to have another look at it but it’s a massive call.”

Walsh was able to regain his footing and walk from the field but was ruled for the rest of the game and will miss Brisbane’s next two games. 

Suaalii became the sixth Origin player to be sent straight from the field and he is now the unfortunate owner of the earliest dismissal in the history of the interstate series.

His dismissal also brought attention to Maguire’s call to not carry an outside back on his bench – a selection that sparked debate in the lead-up to Origin I.

The Blues chose versatile Matt Burton as their 18th man, behind four specialist forwards on the bench proper.

Second-rower Liam Martin initially defended on the right edge to cover for Suaalii but Stephen Crichton shifted from the left to the right later in the first half to sure up the edge.

PLAYERS SENT OFF IN AN ORIGIN GAME:

* Craig Greenhill (QLD) – High Tackle – 62nd minute, Game II, 1996

* Gorden Tallis (QLD) – Referee Abuse, 71st minute, Game I, 2000

* Trent Waterhouse (NSW) – Striking, 78th minute, Game III, 2009

* Jarome Luai (NSW) – Headbutt, 79th minute, Game II, 2023

* Reece Walsh (QLD) – Headbutt, 79th minute, Game II, 2023

* Joseph Suaalii (NSW) – High Tackle – 8th minute, Game I, 2024

AAP