Brisbane fullback Reece Walsh has revealed he sent Penrith pantomime villain Jarome Luai a text of support during this year’s State of Origin series after the pair had clashed.
Walsh will line up for the Broncos against Panthers No.6 Luai in Sunday’s NRL grand final with nothing but respect for his opponent, despite their fiery confrontations in the opening two games of the Origin series.
NSW five-eighth Luai fired shots at his critics on social media after game two of the series, won 32-6 by Queensland, and it later emerged his reaction was fuelled by death threats he had received.
Both men are young fathers and that means a lot to Walsh.He was saddened Luai had been targeted on social media. It drew a heartwarming response from him.
“I sent him a message after game two (of the Origin series) to see how he is going and to wish him all the best with everything,” Walsh said.
“When you go out on the field you … do anything for the team. When you step off, it is a whole different thing.
“I think people forget sometimes that we are normal people with young families to go home to.
“When I leave here and go back to my daughter (Leila) she doesn’t know what game I have lost. She doesn’t care about that. She just cares if she is getting chicken nuggets.”
Walsh, who was mobbed by Broncos supporters at a fan day on Monday, fronted media in an all-in interview where the pair’s on-field feud was a hot topic.
The Broncos whiz kid said Luai was the type of player he would relish going into battle alongside.
Luai pinpointed Queensland custodian Walsh as the culprit for pulling his hair in the Maroons’ 26-18 Origin 1 win in Adelaide and then doubled down after the game by saying that Walsh “ran away” afterwards.
In Brisbane in game two of the series Walsh and Luai were both sent off, and later fined, for striking following a fracas where the Panthers star headbutted the 21-year-old Bronco.
“It is going to be exciting. I obviously have a lot of respect for him,” Walsh said of the pair’s looming clash.
“He is a young dad and he is playing with injury at the moment. That is pretty courageous.
“(Luai) plays with his heart on his sleeve. They are the people you want to … go out to war with. You know they are going to give you their all.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve too.
“Does he get under my skin? No he doesn’t. He is fun to go up against in those battles.”
Walsh and Luai share a lot in common with the way they play the game. Both explosive. Both passionate. Walsh often has his tongue out and has been known to wag it. It was put to him they are both pantomime villains the fans crave.
“I think he draws attention to the game. He has got the right to do it. He has won the last two comps and puts bums on seats,” Walsh said.