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

Joseph Sua’ali’i became just 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.

It already looked ominous for the Blues after conceding an early try with Maroons hooker Ben Hunt crashing in 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 out with a shot that hit the full-back on the head.

Walsh was left on the ground for several minutes while being treated by medical personnel.

The full-back was diagnosed with a category 1 concussion, which automatically ruled him out of the game.

Incredibly, Walsh also passed an assessment for a head injury, although he will not be allowed back into the game.

Referee Ashley Klein said, “I don’t want you to say a word. Very dangerous action, it is the direct contact of the head with the shoulder: you are out. Direct contact with the head”.

Sua’ali’i will join Craig Greenhill (1996), Gorden Tallis (2000), Trent Waterhouse (2009), Jarome Luai and Walsh himself (both 2023) in the infamous list of players sent off in Origin.

A massive hit sees Reece Walsh suffer concussion

But as commentators processed the news, NSW legend Andrew Johns questioned whether it should have been a sending off.

“In Clubland, yes, it’s a greeting. But at this level, I’m really surprised they sent Joseph Sua’ali’i away,” Johns said on Channel 9.

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

“The point is this: 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. He is reckless and careless, but he is not intentional.

“Personally I don’t think it’s goodbye. At this level, we always say there is a bit of headroom in Origin, I think it should have been left.

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

It was an issue that was much debated online in the immediate aftermath of the murder.

Some fans pointed out that Walsh slipped while reaching Sua’ali’i, arguing that this contributed to the ugliness of the shot.

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

One fan wrote: “Walsh was falling… he should have just been in gear 10 in the bin. If he doesn’t fall, Suaali’i hits him in the chest.

Another added: “Sin bin yes. Send no. No intention of hitting Walsh on the head.

A third posted: “Let me start by saying it was a bad tackle (and I hope Walsh is okay) and that it would be a sending off on club land… but this isn’t club land. Klein didn’t read about big games.

But while some were quick to argue that he should stay, many journalists shut down the discussion.

The Sun’s Gary Carter criticized these claims, tweeting: “I saw people claiming Walsh was falling. Nonsense. Red card all day.”

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

News Corp’s Jon Tuxworth wrote: “The statement ‘in club football it’s a sending off, originally it’s not’ is simply the stupidest argument I’ve ever heard. Especially in the age of concussion awareness.

“Don’t hit people directly in the head. Also a shame when Queensland’s best player is out of action it doesn’t feel like justice.

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

British rugby league journalist Matthew Shaw wrote: “It’s one of the worst tackles I’ve seen in a long time. It doesn’t matter at what level, that’s a red card.”

The Mana Rugby account said: “Clear target of Reece Walsh and well deserved sending off. It doesn’t matter if it’s Origin, it’s a perfect shot.”

Sports journalist Robert Smith added: “Suali’i’s shoulder tackle sends Walsh flying into Disneyland… it looked disgusting. Clean cut…”

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