‘Wasn’t a send off’: Footy world split over Joseph Sua’ali’i Origin ‘dog shot’

Joseph Sua’ali’i became only the sixth player in State of Origin history to be sent off after a brutal tackle on Reece Walsh just seven minutes into the first game.

It was already looking ominous for the Blues after conceding an early try when Maroons ruckman Ben Hunt crashed over after four minutes.

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While it had already started badly for the Blues, it was about to get a lot worse after Sua’ali’i laid out Walsh with a shot that caught the full-back in the head.

Walsh remained on the ground for several minutes as medical personnel attended to him.

The full-back suffered a Category 1 concussion, which automatically ruled him out of the game.

Incredibly, Walsh has also undergone a head injury assessment, although he will not be allowed to return to the game.

Judge Ashley Klein said: “I don’t want you to say a word. Very dangerous action, it’s direct head to shoulder contact – you’re out. Direct head contact.”

Sua’ali’i will join Craig Greenhill (1996), Gorden Tallis (2000), Trent Waterhouse (2009), Jarome Luai and Walsh himself (both 2023) on the infamous list of players who have been banned from Origin.

The massive impact left Reece Walsh with a concussion

But as commentators dealt with the news, NSW legend Andrew Johns questioned whether there should have been a suspension.

“There is elimination in Clubland. But at this level I’m really surprised they’ve excluded Joseph Sua’ali’i,” Johns said on Channel 9.

At half-time, Queensland legend Paul Vautin was unlikely to agree with Johns’ sentiment.

“That’s right, Sua’ali’i thinks he’s going to hit him in the chest,” Vautin said. “Reece Walsh bends over and suddenly gets hit in the head. It is reckless and negligent, but not intentional.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. At this level we always say there is some leeway in Origin, I think we should leave it.

“But in saying that, Queensland lost a player for the whole game. So the umpire probably said ‘well, he’s gone, I might as well get rid of the guy’.”

It was a hotly debated question online immediately after the hit.

Some fans pointed out that Walsh slipped when he got to Sua’ali’i and claimed that contributed to the ugliness of the goal.

WWOS’ The Mole claimed that Walsh was “falling,” adding, “Not a shoulder tackle … a dangerous tackle … but Walsh was falling. The world we live in now.”

One fan wrote: “Walsh was going down…should have just been on report 10 in the basket. If he does not fall, Suaali’i hits him in the chest.”

Another added: “Sin bin da. Show no. No intention to hit Walsh in the head.”

A third posted: “I said before that it was a bad tackle (and I hope Walsh is ok) and I would have been sent off in the club ground… but it’s not the club ground. Klein doesn’t read big plays.”

While some were quick to argue that he should stay, many journalists shut down the debate.

The Sun’s Gary Carter blasted the claims, tweeting: “I’ve seen people claiming Walsh went down. Nonsense. Red card all day.”

Buzz Rothfield of the Daily Telegraph said: “Unfortunately it was a fair elimination. This will also be a high score.”

News Corp’s Jon Tuxworth posted: “”There’s a knock-out in club football, originally it’s not” is simply the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard. Especially in an age of concussion awareness.

“Don’t hit people directly in the head. A sin bin when Queensland’s best player is out doesn’t feel right either.”

Sports journalist John Davidson commented: “For me the referee had no choice. Right call.”

British rugby league reporter Matthew Shaw wrote: “This is one of the worst tackles I’ve seen in a long time. No matter what level it is at, it’s a red card.”

The Mana Rugby account said: “Clear targeting of Reece Walsh and well deserved sending off. It doesn’t matter that it’s Origin, it’s a dog clip.”

Sports reporter Robert Smith added: “Suaali’i’s shoulder move sent Walsh into Disneyland … it looked bad. Clean cut…”

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