Taylan May and Reece Walsh.
Ivan Cleary believes the clash between Panther Taylan May and Brisbane's Reece Walsh was accidental. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Walters furious at NRL as scans show fracture for Walsh

Scott Bailey March 22, 2024

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters has lashed out at the NRL for not charging Penrith’s Taylan May for the head clash that ruled Reece Walsh out for up to six weeks.

Scans have confirmed Walsh sustained a fractured face in the 34-12 loss to Penrith, leaving the Broncos superstar unable to fly home and on a lengthy bus ride home.

The injury comes at the worst possible time for the Broncos, who could now be without three of their most important players against North Queensland next Friday.

But while he has spot fires to deal with on the field, Walters is fuming with the NRL off it.

May was placed on report for the contact on Thursday night when he rushed out of the line to put a hit on Walsh, with the pair banging heads after a pass was thrown.

Referee Gerard Sutton told May at the time he had a duty of care to bend in the tackle to avoid the head clash, but the Panthers centre was not charged on Friday.

“I’m a bit confused about the rules you know, where’s the duty of care for our players?” Walters asked.

“Reece is going to miss four-to-six weeks. There was contact to the head, which is duty of care.

“If the NRL are serious about concussions and protecting players, where does this sit with that?

“Where does it sit with that, NRL?”

The injury cruelled Brisbane’s night with Walsh taken from the field after four minutes and not returning as he struggled to see out of his left eye.

Walters said he would contact the NRL over the issue, fearing players would take the superstar fullback out again in the future.

“I’m certainly not a sore loser. But what I am very strong on is the protection of our players,” Walters said.

“If this is let go, next time Reece Walsh comes back on the field what are they going to do again?”

Reece Walsh.
 Reece Walsh receives treatment for damage to his face. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

May’s attempted tackle earned comparisons to Dale Finucane’s head clash with Panther Stephen Crichton in 2022, for which the Sharks skipper was banned for two matches.

But match review committee chairman Luke Patten said it was evident May had not been careless or reckless.

“In the lead-up to impact, May plants both feet with both arms down by his side in an attempt to make a body tackle,” Patten said.

“He does not lead with his shoulder or head unlike other previous incidents.

“Once the ball is passed by player Walsh, both players react to the imminent contact, resulting in both players leaving the ground and accidentally clashing heads.

“The MRC does not see player May rotate his shoulder or raise his arms in an attempt to go through with the tackle.”

Taylan May is put on report by referee Gerard Sutton.
 Panthers centre Taylan May is put on report by referee Gerard Sutton. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

The injury means Walsh joins Payne Haas (knee) on the sidelines for at least the next month, while Adam Reynolds is out with his own knee issue.

With the Broncos earning 1-3 and at risk of their season slipping away early, Tristan Sailor will likely start at fullback against the Cowboys.

Walters said an outside back would also be brought onto the bench, with Walters also frustrated Sailor could not be activated as 18th man against Penrith.

The lack of a reserve back cost the Broncos dearly, with the makeshift second-row and centre pairing of Brendan Piakura and Fletcher Baker torn apart by Nathan Cleary.

“If this is going to be the rules and NRL aren’t going to police it, we’ll have to do something about it ourselves,” Walters said.