“Very dangerous action … Direct contact to the head with the shoulder. Off,” Klein said.

Walsh, who lay motionless on the Accor Stadium turf for several minutes, was diagnosed with a category-one concussion, which meant he could take no further part in the match despite passing his head-injury assessment. Queensland’s 18th man, Felise Kaufusi, was activated.

Reece Walsh is treated on the field.

Reece Walsh is treated on the field.Credit: Getty

Queensland teammate Ben Hunt was the first on the scene, and panicked when he noticed the state Walsh was in.

“It was a bit [frightening], his eyes had rolled back, I rolled him onto his side, then he started to shake, which freaked me out,” Hunt said.

“I’ve seen it a couple of times. It doesn’t get any easier, and it’s always scary because you never know how bad it is. Our trainer got there quickly.

“He expects [the heavy treatment], and Reece doesn’t shy away from it. He’s happy to take it on. They got him tonight.”

When told Suaalii was facing a huge ban, Hunt said: “I hadn’t thought too much about the ban. But he definitely didn’t miss him. And it was high and forceful.”

Spencer Leniu felt for his Roosters and NSW teammate.

“I’m gutted for Joey, it’s such an unfortunate thing,” he said. “I know his intention wasn’t to go out there and hurt Walshy. Obviously, he’s gutted. He felt like he let the boys down, but that’s footy.

“Footy throws you weird things sometimes and we got the weird end of the stick today.”

Broncos No.1 Walsh spent the rest of the game cuddling his daughter and cheering his team from the sideline.

Channel Nine crossed live to Billy Slater shortly after Walsh was ruled out, with the Queensland coach tight-lipped about the high shot.

“You probably don’t want to know that,” he said when asked for his opinion on Suaalii’s attempted tackle.

In commentary, NSW legend Andrew Johns was critical of the decision to send off Suaalii.

“At clubland, yes. It’s a shame. It is a send-off, but at this level I’m really surprised they sent Joseph Suaalii off,” he said.

Both coaches were grilled in the lead-up about the composition of their benches. Blues coach Michael Maguire opted for four forwards, prompting questions about his contingency plan should an outside back get into trouble.

Slater, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with his decision to select Selwyn Cobbo in jersey No.17.

Queensland’s decision proved a masterstroke the moment Suaalii was given his marching orders. Cobbo slotted seamlessly into the centres, while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow had the game of his life after taking over at fullback.


Maguire touted Hudson Young as the man to fill in at centre if a back-line reshuffle was required, but the Raiders star didn’t get any game time until the 54th minute. Several pundits felt Bulldogs pivot Matt Burton – who won a premiership playing centre at Penrith – would have given the Blues bench more versatility.

The Maroons did most of their early damage attacking the NSW right edge, finding holes in the space where Suaalii would have been defending.

Suaalii was a somewhat controversial selection by Maguire given he will leave the NRL at the end of the season to take up a $5 million Rugby Australia contract. Upon signing the deal with the 15-man game, the Blues’ most successful coach, Phil Gould, felt the NRL should immediately cut ties with Suaalii.

Roosters chairman Nick Politis has indicated that Suaalii is keen to return to the club after his rugby stint, although Suaalii himself said he was keeping an open mind about his future.