Reece Walsh doesn’t want to be the next Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – but admits that the Warriors captain played a massive part in luring him to the club.
The highly rated teenager joined up with the squad last week, after signing a three-year contract in March.
Walsh was one of the brightest young prospects at the Broncos and is already being talked about as a future NRL star, though he is yet to play first grade.
He said the opportunity to do an apprenticeship under Tuivasa-Sheck this year was too hard to turn down, while his head was also turned after meeting with the fullback and vice-captain Tohu Harris.
“I sat down with Roger and Tohu and I just fired some questions at them, as much as I could and they answered [honestly],” said Walsh. “I wanted to get here as soon as possible so I can take in the knowledge and learn from him and see what he does on the field and off the field.
“It played a major part in me signing for the club and also wanting to get over here early and learn off him.”
A candid chat with Warriors coach Nathan Brown was also vital.
“He told me where he sees me playing a part in the team and where he sees the team going forward,” recalled Walsh “I felt like I could fit right into that and be a really good asset to the team and that was pretty much the turning point there.
The 18-year-old will have massive shoes to fill, as Tuivasa-Sheck is already rated as one of the club’s best ever players, but he is unconcerned by the inevitable comparisons.
“I just need to play my style of footy,” said Walsh. “I think everyone’s going to expect, you know, he’s going to fill Roger’s shoes but I’m not Roger. I’m sort of a different player to Roger so I will just go out there and do what I can dofooty wise [and it] will handle itself right.”
Walsh is also undaunted about (eventually) living on this side of the Tasman.
“I’ve never been to New Zealand,” said Walsh. “I don’t have a passport at the moment, so I’m in the process of getting one now. [But] I can’t wait to see a new part of the world and hopefully meet some family from my side.”
Walsh has Kiwi heritage through his birth mother Kahuti Campbell, who is from Hastings, though he has minimal contact over the years.
Walsh has settled in well, rooming with halves Sean O’Sullivan and Kodi Nikorima and impressing observers in training.
Brown will tread carefully – not wanting to expose the youngster to too much, too soon – though the run of injuries has drastically reduced backline stocks and Walsh is not short on confidence.
“I feel ready now mate,” said Walsh. “It’s a matter of a time when Brownie feels like it’s right or the boys feel like it’s right for me to come in. I feel like I could go out there and do a job, when they want to do that.”
For now though Walsh, who has five siblings, will continue to develop his trade, under one of his NRL idols.
“I just want to learn as much as I can this year,” said Walsh. “This is going to be a big year for me learning for the future. It’s probably the best opportunity I have to come here and learn, because I am learning off one of the best fullbacks in the game.
“It was extremely hard leaving a club like the Broncos and you know how big they are, but I couldn’t let the opportunity here at the Warriors go.”
Walsh has been named on an extended bench for Sunday’s clash with the Storm (8:15pm), with more injury-enforced changes to the backline.
Marcelo Montoya and Jack Murchie are the latest centre combination, after Peta Hiku (shoulder) and Adam Pompey (ankle) picked up injuries against the Dragons last Sunday.
Utility back Paul Turner (shoulder) is also side lined, with Bayley Sironen taking his spot on the interchange bench. The forward pack is otherwise unchanged, while wing David Fusitu’a returns from a hamstring injury.
Warriors team to face the Storm in Melbourne (8:15pm Sunday)
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
2. David Fusitu’a
3. Marcelo Montoya
4. Jack Murchie
5. Ken Maumalo
6. Kodi Nikorima
7. Sean O’Sullivan
8. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
9. Wayde Egan
10. Kane Evans
11. Josh Curran
12. Ben Murdoch-Masila
13. Tohu Harris
14. Jazz Tevaga
15. Bunty Afoa
16. Leeson Ah Mau
17. Bayley Sironen
Extended bench: Rocco Berry, Tom Ale, Reece Walsh, Taniela Otukolo
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