NRL: Why new Warriors star Reece Walsh could be dropped ahead of Manly Sea Eagles clash

In just two NRL appearances, Reece Walsh has shown he has a bright future. But as the team start to get players back from the casualty ward, the Warriors are prepared to play the long game with their 18-year-old star.

Walsh could be a late exclusion from this weekend’s side to face the Manly Sea Eagles in Sydney, with first-choice half Chanel Harris-Tavita nearing a return from injury.

While Walsh was named at five-eighth for the game, coach Nathan Brown confirmed there could be changes afoot should Harris-Tavita be cleared to return this weekend.

Harris-Tavita had locked down the halfback role with the Warriors coming into the season and had started the season well before sustaining an ankle injury in their round two loss to the Newcastle Knights.

While the injury could have kept him out for up to 12 weeks, the 22-year-old was named on the extended bench for this weekend’s game against Manly with every chance of being a late inclusion after missing their last six outings.

“Chanel was our starting halfback at the start of the year, so I would expect him to be our starting halfback now, if he’s fit and able,” Brown confirmed.

Having Harris-Tavita available would allow the club to be far more selective about how they introduce Walsh to first-grade before taking the reins as their fulltime fullback in 2022.

It would also give the team options around how they want to play, with Kodi Nikorima an option to play at hooker, or any of the three able to play as a utility off the bench.

“We’ve got a few options there we can look at, with where people can play, who plays and what suits the team,” Brown said.

“So we’ve got about half a dozen plans, but we haven’t really worried too much about it. Reece can obviously play at six and one, so he trained in different spots and Chanel trained at seven and six. There are a number of things we can look at there.”

Walsh has already won over Warriors fans with his impressive performances in the past fortnight, particularly with ball in hand as he has shown his ability to put teammates into space. In just two games, he already boasts the club’s second-highest tally for try assists with three, alongside Nikorima and hooker Wayde Egan, just one behind fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

“Reece is only a young player, he’s only 18, so managing Reece is going to be important throughout the year,” Brown said.

Harris-Tavita may not be the only player the Warriors get back this week, with centre Euan Aitken also named on the extended bench. Aitken’s return would force a rethink of the back line, however Brown said Aitken was the least likely of those returning from injury to be ready to go this weekend.

The coach also clarified the situation around winger David Fusitu’a, who has been sidelined due to a hamstring injury, and hit back at reports that Fusitu’a was out of the squad due to personal reasons.

“There are areas of rumours that people shouldn’t talk about, I would have thought. That’s only if you’ve got your moral compass pointing in the right direction anyway,” Brown said of the reports.

“We thought he was going to be right to play last week and he got through the full week’s training then pulled up tight. He had a run Sunday, about an hour before the game and again it wasn’t good.

“So, he’s going to be a longer-term proposition than what we first thought.”

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