NZ Warriors insist rookie star Reece Walsh isn't ready to play State of Origin, despite his name being linked to a shock call-up for embattled Queensland.
Walsh - along with Roosters halfback Sam Walker - has been touted as a potential debutant for the Maroons, as they look at their options for game two, after a record 50-6 defeat to New South Wales last week.
But Warriors assistant coach Justin Morgan believes it’s too soon for the 18-year-old.
"No disrespect to Reece, I think Origin’s a bit beyond him at the moment," says Morgan.
"Will he play Origin at some point? If I was a betting man I would say at some point.
"I think for his own development, so often in the past young players in key positions...thrown into Origin, it chews them up and spits them out and it takes them a while to find their feet again."
Given Walsh has played just six NRL games, and didn’t play at all last season due to the reserve grade competition being suspended, the Warriors' concerns are understandable.
Since joining the Warriors from the Brisbane Broncos, Walsh has flown out the blocks to earmark himself as a superstar of the future.
But as a developing player still in his NRL infancy, there are concerns an Origin berth would be too much, too soon.
"It's great for him to be spoken about but he’s still learning his trade in the NRL," Morgan notes. "He’s by no means the finished product.
"To put that kind of pressure on him to organise the defensive line in a State of Origin game, I think he might need a little more time under the belt."
But the club wouldn’t stand in Walsh's way, if he were to get the call-up from Queensland coach Paul Green.
"We would never do that," Morgan says. "We would never get in a player’s way of playing representative football, whether that’s for Tonga, Samoa, Queensland, or playing for Papua New Guinea."
But Queensland legend Wally Lewis believes both Walker and Walsh wouldn't be overawed by an Origin opportunity.
"If you're good enough, you're old enough," Lewis tells Australia's Nine Wide World of Sports.
"When they get the opportunity and quite often, a player of those talents they only get better then they’re surrounded by wonderfully talented players.
"I don’t think it's all that big a challenge."
Walsh confirms he hasn't been contacted by Green, insisting Origin is low on his list of concerns.
“If that stuff comes, it comes later," Walsh says. "I just want to focus on what’s happening now.".
After making an undeniable mark in his first few games for the Warriors, the teen sensation is loving life with his new club and embracing the challenge of moulding himself into a first grade player.
"I'm still learning so much and still have a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else," says Walsh. "The boys are great here, the staff are great here. I'm loving it."
Game two of State of Origin will be played at Suncorp Stadium on June 27.
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