‘Let down my state’: Suaalii remorseful after Walsh hit

George Clarke |

Referee Ashley Klein tells  Blues captain Jake Trbojevic that Joseph Sua’ali’i  is being sent off.
Referee Ashley Klein tells Blues captain Jake Trbojevic that Joseph Sua’ali’i is being sent off.

Michael Maguire has scoffed at suggestions his Blues targeted Reece Walsh as Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii apologised to the whole of NSW after being sent off less than eight minutes into his State of Origin debut.

Suaalii is facing a four-game ban after his hit collected the Maroons fullback flush on the cheek in Queensland’s 38-10 win in Sydney on Wednesday.

The Queensland No.1 was expected to come in for some special treatment and was also whacked by NSW back-rower Liam Martin in one of his first involvements.

Suaalii’s tackle ended Walsh’s night under concussion protocols soon after, with NSW’s heavy-handed approach leaving Queensland – led by Maroons great Johnathan Thurston – claiming the Blues had put a target on their flying fullback.

But Maguire, who has vowed to throw his support behind Suaalii, hit back at those suggestions on Thursday morning, describing them as “ridiculous”.

NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire.
Michael Maguire hit out at suggestions NSW set out to target Queensland fullback Reece Walsh. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

“They’ve got their opinions but I’ll hold my tongue on that one,” the Blues coach said.

“He was just going out to make a tackle and Reece was slipping as Joey was going down. It was an unfortunate act.”

The incident leaves rugby union-bound Suaalii facing up to the prospect he may have played his first and last game for his state.

Suaalii’s ban will rub him out of game two in Melbourne, while Origin III appears unlikely given he won’t feature in any club matches before Maguire names his team for the final fixture in the series.

Reece Walsh receives treatment at Accor Stadium.
Reece Walsh receives treatment after Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii’s early hit. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

The Sydney Roosters star was shielded from the media in the immediate aftermath of the loss, but told reporters on Thursday morning he was “disappointed at letting my family, my state and my teammates (down)”.

“I didn’t mean that at all, I just went there to go and tackle (Walsh),” Suaalii said.

“I accidentally clipped his head and I hope he is doing all right.

“I haven’t reached out to him yet but it’s something I’ll do.”

Suaalii could have his ban beefed up to five games if he fights the grade-two reckless contact charge at the NRL judiciary and loses.

Blues players were sympathetic to Suaalii’s plight after the 20-year-old became just the sixth player in Origin history to be sent off.

Prop Payne Haas, who plays club football with Walsh at Brisbane, was understanding as Suaalii attempted to leave his mark. .

Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii.
On his Origin debut, Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii became the sixth player in series history to be sent off. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

“I thought Reece slipped into it,” Haas told AAP.

“I hope Walshy’s all right, he’s my teammate at my club, so I hope he’s all right.

“(But) I feel sorry for Joey, it’s a bit of a hard one. We’ve all got his back and I’m sure he’ll be back.

“I’m not sure what he’s supposed to do there to pull out.”