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Walsh the Warrior: Family, Walker and footy addiction driving NRL prodigy

Reece Walsh is 18 years old with bumfluff masquerading as a moustache, a $1 million-plus contract, a six-week-old daughter, and an eight-game-a-week footy addiction.

His two NRL games to date loom as the first of many.

The backyard style, bull at a gate playmaking in both games is seemingly par for a refreshing course that he and fellow teen tyro Sam Walker seem intent on reinventing.

A strong friendship has grown between the pair as their paths have crossed through Queensland's juniors, and of course the Broncos' systems they have both since jettisoned.

A shared free-wheeling, footy and family-first outlook by Walker and Walsh has been laid plain in the latter's full-time family haka after his AAMI Park debut, and the Steeden-shaped obsession he has held for as long as he can remember.

"I am the bloke that watches every game," Walsh laughs after his second outing against the Cowboys.

Sam Walker and Reece Walsh with the Queensland under 18s in 2019.
Sam Walker and Reece Walsh with the Queensland under 18s in 2019. ©NRL Photos

"Me and my roommate Sean [O'Sullivan] get ripped for it, but it’s not our fault we love footy.

"There have been a couple of times when the boys have tried to chip me up about it saying 'get away from footy' but it’s hard to.

"I love my footy and I love studying it because I want to be the best footballer that I can be.

"I do understand that you have to step away from footy sometimes, and I’m pretty fortunate to have my little girl here now.

"I feel like family life and footy life [are balanced] because I can step away from it to see my baby girl."

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Walsh's baby daughter Leila Arohamauroa was straight into his arms after that NRL debut against the Storm, while an extensive family contingent were on hand in Melbourne for his jersey presentation and impressive first game.

"It was an emotional time to have my family there because I’ve grown up dreaming of playing footy my whole life," Walsh says.

"For them to do a haka for me is a sign of respect, and I just hope I did them proud because they’ve supported me all the way."

Walsh has only been with the Warriors for a couple of weeks, but his poaching from Brisbane on a lucrative three-year deal has already generated serious hype.

Just like Walker, whose recent exploits loom large for Walsh, that will double down with every eye-catching performance.

"I've seen Sammy come in and I was really excited by watching him go out there and play," he says.

Walker has the ball on a string for Josh Morris to get a hat-trick!

"It gives me confidence seeing him do it, I think I can go out and do a job and get it done."

The polish is still to come, as a madcap second half against the Cowboys showed – when each line break or silky play was accompanied by a hand overplayed or a ball punted long.

But with North Queensland storming home, the respect Walsh holds with his teammates sat clear as day, in stark contrast to the hair strands being cultivated on his top lip.

Sublime hands from the Warriors

In his second NRL game, Walsh was responsible for 14 of the Warriors 15 kicks at Central Coast Stadium, and almost matched senior half Kodi Nikorima for touches of the footy – finishing with 49 to Nikorima's 53.

With the contest on the line, Walsh remained front and centre at first receiver, insisting afterwards he would have it no other way.

"Growing up I always wanted to be the one that steers the team around and wins footy games," he says.

"I’ve always had it in me. I don’t second-guess myself, because at the end of the day, [Warriors teammates] support me, they back me and they want me to play the style of footy that I play.

Match Highlights: Warriors v Cowboys

"When I want the footy, I’ll get it and they’ll fall into line. I know where my place is in this team, and if they want the footy then I’ll jump off the back of them.

"It feels really special to have people like Kodi and Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] backing me and telling me to play the style of play that I want to play.

"I feel like you earn your trust through actions because actions speak louder than words."

Walsh has fast made himself at home in the Warriors Central Coast set-up, while the influence of his five brothers and sisters has long kept his feet firmly on the ground.

Older brother Zac spent time in the Rabbitohs and Newcastle systems but never progressed beyond under 20s.

He remains a fixture at Walsh's junior club Nerang Roosters as their first-grade captain on the Gold Coast, where it all started for the latest talent to put the Telstra Premiership on notice.

"It’s crazy. I look back to this time last year and I was meant to be at school," Walsh says.

Nikorima and Walsh continue to fire as Murdoch-Masila scores

"I learned all at my junior club the Nerang Roosters. I had brothers, cousins and friends play there, and all I can remember is going down there each week and staying there Friday all the way to Sunday.

"I still pinch myself every day. I’m fortunate and I’m grateful that I’ve got so much support around me that keeps me grounded."

Walsh will again line up at five-eighth when the Warriors travel to Lottoland on Sunday to face Manly.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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