Image of Reece Walsh holding his daughter after being KO’d melts hearts, State of Origin 2024

For Reece Walsh, the evening ended prematurely after a nasty shot from NSW Blues debutant Joseph Sua’ali’i.

The opening match of the State of Origin series was turned on its head just seven minutes into the match when Sua’ali’i stepped out of his defensive line and hit Walsh squarely in the head with his shoulder.

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Walsh remained lying on the ground, standing on the grass at Accor Stadium, while Queensland fans held their breath and hoped that their regular fullback would be OK.

However, none of the guests present were likely as nervous as Walsh’s daughter Leila, who sat in the stands and watched.

Thankfully, Walsh got back on his feet and left the field, where a heartwarming moment occurred between the two.

As Walsh returned to the sidelines, he picked up his biggest fan and the two hugged.

Leila was seen helping the Maroons on the training track earlier this week, sprinting across the field with her father and engaging in a duel with Patrick Carrigan.

She became a permanent fixture on the sidelines at Brisbane Broncos games and has become the unofficial mascot of the Maroons.

Leila stole the show after the 2023 State of Origin series opener when Walsh credited her with being his inspiration.

“This is my little daughter Leila,” Walsh said, holding his daughter, who was outfitted in a Maroons hoodie and beanie hat, complete with teddy bear ears.

“She’s my rock. She’s the reason I go out there and put on that jersey.”

“I got my jersey,” Leila added, as hearts melted across the country.

Although Walsh did not play a key role, the Maroons proved too strong for the 12-man Blues, claiming a 38-10 victory on Wednesday night.

Walsh will miss his next two games for the Broncos but is expected to be fit enough to play at the MCG in three weeks.

Man of the Match Daly Cherry-Evans produced a brilliant performance at 35, while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scored a hat-trick, taking his total to eight tries in just five Origin appearances.

The Maroons led 20-6 at halftime and although NSW briefly threatened to make a comeback, clear tries from Ben Hunt and Xavier Coates sealed the deal.

This defeat now puts the Blues in a difficult position, as Game 2 of the series is in Melbourne and Game 3 in Brisbane, meaning they effectively have to win two away games.

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