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

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

Things were already looking bleak for the Blues after they conceded an early try and Maroons hooker Ben Hunt fell to the ground after four minutes.

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While things had already started badly for the Blues, things were about to get much worse after Sua’ali’i knocked Walsh down with a punch that hit the fullback in the head.

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

The fullback was diagnosed with a Category 1 concussion, which automatically ruled him out of the game.

Unbelievable but true: Walsh also passed an examination for a head injury, but he will not be allowed to take part in the game again.

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

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 sent off at Origin.

But as commentators processed the news, NSW legend Andrew Johns questioned whether this should have been a farewell.

“At club level it’s a departure, but at this level I’m really surprised they sent Joseph Sua’ali’i off,” Johns told Channel 9.

At half-time, Queensland legend Paul Vautin surprisingly agreed with Johns’ opinion.

“The thing is, Sua’ali’i thinks he’s going to hit him in the chest,” Vautin said. “Reece Walsh ducks and suddenly gets hit in the head. It’s reckless and careless, but not intentional.”

“Personally, I don’t think it’s a departure. At this level, we always say there’s a bit of wiggle room at Origin. I think he should have been kept.

“But Queensland lost a player for the whole game. So the referee probably thought, ‘Well, he’s gone, I might as well get rid of him.'”

This question was hotly debated on the Internet immediately after the attack.

Some fans pointed out that Walsh slipped as he reached Sua’ali’i, saying this contributed to the ugliness of the impact.

WWOS’ The Mole argued that Walsh “fell”, adding: “No shoulder thrust… dangerous tackle… but Walsh fell. The world we live in now.”

One fan wrote: “Walsh fell… should have only been in the bin on report 10. If he doesn’t fall, Suaali’i will hit him in the chest.”

Another added: “Penalty box yes. Send-off no. No intention to hit Walsh in the head.”

A third wrote: “I’d like to say up front that it was a bad tackle (and hope Walsh is OK) and in club football you would miss the pitch… but this isn’t club football. Klein has no idea about big games.”

But while some quickly claimed he should have stayed, many reporters ended the discussion.

Gary Carter of the Sun sharply criticised the allegations, tweeting: “I’ve heard people say Walsh would fall. Nonsense. Red card all day.”

Buzz Rothfield of the Daily Telegraph said: “Unfortunately, it was not a fair send-off. There will be a good note too.”

Jon Tuxworth of News Corp wrote: “The ‘in club football it’s a bye, in Origin football it’s not’ argument is simply the stupidest argument I have ever heard. Especially in this era of concussion awareness.”

“Don’t hit anyone directly in the head. A penalty box when Queensland’s best player can’t play doesn’t seem fair either.”

Sports reporter John Davidson commented: “For me the referee had no other choice. Correct decision.”

British rugby league reporter Matthew Shaw wrote: “That is one of the worst tackles I have seen in a long time. Whatever the level, that is a red card.”

The Mana Rugby account said: “Clearly a tackle on Reece Walsh and a well deserved sending off. It doesn’t matter that it’s Origin, it’s a dog shot.”

Sports reporter Robert Smith added: “Suaali’i’s shoulder-bump knocks Walsh into Disneyland… looked terrible. Definitely…”

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