NRL 2023 news: Reece Walsh taught harshest lesson of all, Brisbane Broncos

According to boomer lore, the youth of today have the confidence of a T-Rex and the memory of a 95-year old goldfish.

But despite these bold youngsters never dwelling on their errors, the Broncos’ capitulation on Sunday night will surely haunt Reece Walsh across the summer and leave a dent in his bristling self-belief.

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Brisbane’s inexplicable rollover to the Panthers will remain a waking nightmare for Kevin Walters’ men, even despite it burying the Grand Final heartache of 2015 with an even more heartbreaking 2023.

The fallout has been even more uncomfortable, with a painful colonoscopy underway to determine how in God’s name they blew a 24-8 lead after having Penrith’s voracious defence looking as mean as a cupcake.

While Ezra Mam was the Broncos hero with his stunning triple-try burst, questions are being asked how a toey force like Walsh was so effectively neutered on the biggest stage.

Sure, he wasn’t the only bloke to have an off night – even the Clive Churchill Medalist had an opening 60 minutes to forget – but based on his usual voltage, it seemed the pressure of the occasion wore him like a turtleneck.

The young sensation slowly warmed in to contest and was instrumental in the Mam spree, but it was his inability to insert himself into the contest in the first half and a number of defensive lapses that will weigh heavily on his very pretty shoulders.

Whether being caught napping for the Mitch Kenny try or on the hop for Nathan Cleary’s match-sealer – or just failing to impose himself when his side wasn’t running downhill – Walsh was taught a harsh lesson that elite fullback play requires more than the continental stuff.

This was exacerbated by his ultra-tireless opposite in Dylan Edwards, with the 2022 Clive Churchill Medalist producing 25 runs for 271 metres and three tackle busts in a nerdy triumph of substance over sexiness.

In a plastic world of face filters and TikTok, it’s nice to know there’s still a place for an understated fullback who’s thinning on top.

All in all, it reminded us that despite Walsh’s lethal potency in attack, swashbuckling doesn’t always pay the bills and stunning eyelashes won’t clean-up at the back, unless we’re talking about the nightclub.

Nevertheless, as a 21-year old maverick with enough attacking arsenal to sink a small flotilla, this will ultimately be nothing more than a minor blemish for the young fullback.

In a week he was labelled “The Justin Bieber of rugby league” by Peter V’landys – because clearly Justin loves ‘ya mum’ – this bloke is too brash and too handsome to hold down.

No doubt he will return to his marauding best for 2024, right after a Mad Monday erasing these godawful memories with more Canadian Clubs than Ivan Cleary.

– Dane Eldridge is a warped cynic yearning for the glory days of rugby league, a time when the sponges were magic and the Mondays were mad. He’s never strapped on a boot in his life, and as such, should be taken with a grain of salt.

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