Brisbane Broncos coach Kevin Walters has called on the NRL to come down harder on high shots after Joseph Sua’ali’i accepted a four-week suspension offered for his high shot on Reece Walsh in State of Origin I.

Sua’ali’i, making his State of Origin debut for NSW, was sent off in the eighth minute of the series opener after making contact with Walsh’s head when he attempted a tackle that left Queensland fullback knocked out on the grass.

The Sydney Roosters confirmed on Friday Sua’ali’i had entered an early guilty plea to the grade-two reckless high tackle charge and will be sidelined until round 19 of the NRL season.

He risked being suspended for five matches if he unsuccessfully challenged the charge at the judiciary.

But Walters said it was not enough as he prepares for another month without his superstar fullback in Brisbane, adding to Walsh’s lay-off with a broken eye socket after a violent head clash with Penrith’s Taylan May in similar circumstances in round three.

“That’s the second time it’s happened, and four weeks, for me, is not enough,” he said at Broncos training.

“That’s twice now and the first time [May] didn’t even get sin-binned or suspended, nothing.

“We want our great players to play, and it’s not about toughness, because Reece is as tough as any player in the game. But four weeks for ironing a bloke out the way he did, that’s not enough for mine.”

Reece Walsh puts his arm around coach Kevin Walters at Brisbane Broncos NRL training.

Reece Walsh (left) still sports the scars on his left eye from his last nasty knockout.(AAP: Darren England)

Walsh will miss the next two Broncos games as they fall within the mandatory 11-day break after concussions, and then will presumably go straight back into Queensland camp for State of Origin II, meaning his next match under Walters will be round 17 against the Warriors at the earliest.

“The NRL have got to protect him and be harder on the suspensions,” he said.

“This stuff happens in the game and it’s got to be policed well. It was policed well on Wednesday night but I just thought they could’ve gone a bit harder with the suspension.”

Walters said “teams have been targeting the better players for a long time” but he was worried about players “crossing the line”.

“It’s not right for me to try and feel what [the Blues’] plan was but I saw what their actions were,” he said.

While not enough to satisfy Walters, Sua’ali’i’s ban effectively rules him out of the remainder of the State of Origin series as he would not be available for the Roosters until the weekend before the third and final game in Brisbane on July 17.

Speaking on Thursday, Sua’ali’i, who will move to rugby union at the end of the NRL season, said 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),” Sua’ali’i said.

Reece Walsh

Reece Walsh was ruled out of the remainder of the match after displaying category-one concussion symptoms.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

“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.”

Maroons officials were fuming after their 38-10 win in the series opener at Stadium Australia, with assistant coach Johnathan Thurston accusing the Blues of targeting Walsh.

Walsh played no further part in the match due to concussion protocols.

“Everyone has seen it and it was unfortunate for Sua’ali’i making his debut,” Thurston said.

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

Blues coach Michael Maguire described the suggestion his team went after Walsh as “ridiculous”.

“They’ve (Maroons) got their opinions but I’ll hold my tongue on that one,” he said.

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

Amid debate about whether Sua’ali’i should have been sent off, retired NSW State of Origin representative Josh Mansour said referee Ashley Klein made the correct call.

“I know it was a big pivotal moment, it definitely changed the game [and] the series but unfortunately it was the right decision,” he told ABC NRL Daily.

In other judiciary news following State of Origin I, Sua’ali’i’s Blues teammate Isaah Yeo accepted a fine after entering an early guilty plea for a careless high tackle charge.


Posted 2h ago2 hours agoFri 7 Jun 2024 at 2:01am, updated 34m ago34 minutes agoFri 7 Jun 2024 at 4:01am