State of Origin: Joseph Suaalii elects not to challenge ban over Reece Walsh tackle

Ben McClellan and Joel Gould
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Joseph Suaalii was given his marching orders for a brutal hit on Reece Walsh.

Joseph Suaalii will miss the next four games after the Sydney Roosters opted not to fight his suspension for the sickening hit on Reece Walsh in State of Origin Game I.

Suaalii could have rolled the dice at the judiciary to get his four-match ban downgraded from a grade-two reckless tackle to a careless tackle but if that had failed he would have had the suspension extended by another week to five matches.

The decision means Suaalii, who is defecting to rugby union next year, will miss games against the Eels, West Tigers and Dragons as well as Origin II.

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Suaalii apologised on Thursday over the tackle that knocked Walsh out of the game.

“Obviously a bit disappointed. Let my fam, my state and especially my teammates down. I feel like that’s the toughest thing about it, but yeah I’ve just got to move on from here,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile Walsh, who won’t play against Cronulla on Saturday, appeared to hold no grudge against Suaalii.

“He got me flush on the chin hey. It’s all part of the game. It was a good hit. You have to keep rolling with the punches. At the end of the day it is what it is,” the 21-year-old said during a TV interview on Thursday.

“At the end of the day you make a decision and you have to live with it. That’s footy.”

The NSW debutant became only the sixth man in Origin history to be sent off, after making late and high shoulder contact with Queensland’s fullback in the opening minutes of Wednesday night’s series opener.

The hit knocked Walsh unconscious and condemned the Blues to a 38-10 loss at home.

The Roosters could apply to count the second Origin game towards Suaalii’s ban, but selection rules would still leave him needing to miss the club match that preceded game two.

Suaalii would be available for selection in the third match of the series on July 17 but appears unlikely to be selected given his lack of competitive football in the lead-up to that game.

Given he will switch codes to play rugby union from 2025, and has not committed on a return to NRL, Suaalii’s Origin future is clouded after only seven minutes of game time on debut.

Latrell Mitchell and Matt Burton appear the leading candidates to replace Suaalii in the centres when NSW fight to keep the series alive in Melbourne later this month.

The Roosters have the bye this weekend but Fetalaiga Pauga looks the safest option to take Suaalii’s spot in the backline for round 15, given Billy Smith remains sidelined with an ankle problem.

Veteran Michael Jennings is another option.

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