‘Direct contact to the head’: Suaalii sent off after seven minutes of Origin debut for horror hit on Walsh


NSW centre Joseph Suaalii became the sixth player in Origin history to be sent off after he smashed Maroons fullback Reece Walsh with a high shot in just the seventh minute of the series opener at Accor Stadium.

The Roosters rising star was making his Blues debut and he rushed up to hit Walsh as he offloaded to create a long-range break by Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.

After play broke down a couple of tackles later, play was stopped as Walsh was given treatment.

The Queensland fullback has been ruled out for the entire match with category-one symptons and because he was a victim of foul play resulting in a send-off, it activated 18th player Felise Kaufusi to the interchange with Selwyn Cobbo coming on at centre and Tabuai-Fidow switching to the back.

Referee Ashley Klein told Suaalii the contact was “was direct and forceful to the head” before sending him on his way to the shock of Blues skipper Jake Trbojevic, who repeatedly questioned “off?”

Klein had told Trbojevic before he brought the captain and Suaalii in to hear his explanation: “I don’t want you to say a word. That’s a very dangerous action with direct contact to the head with the shoulder. You’re off.”

The Blues were trailing 6-0 at the time after an early Ben Hunt try and the Maroons booted a penalty goal soon after but the home side hit back soon after the send-off when James Tedesco touched down.

Joseph Sua’alii is sent off by referee Ashley Klein. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Maroons coach Billy Slater was asked for his thoughts on the tackle during a live cross a few minutes after the incident and, clearly unimpressed with the tackle, he replied: “Probably don’t want to know that.”

Former Blues coach Brad Fittler on Nine’s sideline commentary duties said “the sound wasn’t good” when describing the Suaalii contact on Walsh.

Knights Immortal Andrew Johns surprisingly indicated Suaalii should have been let off with a sin-binning rather than a straight send-off.

“At clubland yes,” he said whether he thought the young Rooster should have been banished. “It’s a shame. It is a send-off but at this level but I’m really surprised they sent Joseph Suaalii off”

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