NSW Blues vs Queensland Maroons, Michael Maguire press conference, video, Reece Walsh head knock, Joseph Sua’ali’i send-off, suspension

New South Wales coach Michael Maguire has declared Joseph Sua’ali’i’s send-off a “massive call” and questioned the inconsistencies in officiating after the Blues were forced to 12 men for 72 minutes in their loss to Queensland.

Sua’ali’i was sent from the field — much to the surprise of captain Jake Trbojevic — after his shoulder made direct contact with Reece Walsh’s head, leaving the Queensland fullback laying motionless on the turf.

He is now facing a four-game suspension after the match review committee hit him with a grade two reckless high tackle charge following the game.

Maguire, who spoke in his post-game press conference prior to the charge sheet being release, made his feelings known when asked about the incident — and pointed to another Walsh incident earlier this season.

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Walsh suffered a facial fracture and was sidelined for two weeks after a sickening head clash with Panthers centre Taylan May in Round 3. May was penalised and placed on report for the collision but was not sanctioned by the match review committee.

“Earlier on in the year I think (Walsh) ended up with a broken jaw and there was no send-off so it’s a big call at this level,” Maguire said in reference to the Round 3 incident.

“He was falling… I’d have to have another look at it but I think it was a massive call for a game like this.”

Trbojevic, who looked stunned when referee Ashley Klein told Sua’ali’i to leave the field, echoed his coach.

“It was a tough one. I didn’t expect him to get sent off, if I’m being honest, just probably because of the enormity of the game. But that’s the way it went,” he admitted.

New Blue SENT OFF for hit on Walsh | 00:46

It was a devastating start for Sua’ali’i, who was only seven minutes into his State of Origin debut when the tackle occurred.

“I’d imagine he has a fair bit of emotion rolling around inside at the moment, but one thing we’re going to do is we get around him — that’s what we do,” Maguire said when asked about how the 20-year-old is feeling.

“They made the decision so we now look after our own.”

NSW were forced to adjust on the run as Queensland capitalised off the one-man advantage by scoring two tries in five minutes down the edge Sua’ali’i would’ve been defending on.

Maguire conceded “it takes a bit of time to try and get that adjustment” and wasn’t surprised to see Queensland target that area.

But he stood by his thoughts on the contentious call.

“You never probably plan for having a bloke off in a circumstance like that where I thought it was a line call, honestly,” he said.

“You’re playing in a game like this and it’s a massive line call… it’s disappointing to see him get sent off but they called that and that’s the way it is.”

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Queensland coach Billy Slater rolled the dice on having an outside back on his bench and it ended up being a masterstroke with Selwyn Cobbo being injected into the action after Walsh was ruled out of the remainder of the game.

When asked about his make-up of his bench Maguire quipped: “I don’t think anyone has ever planned for a send-off in an Origin game.”

“We had all our rotations covered, ‘Huddo’ (Hudson Young) went out into the centres and we had Angus (Crichton) in the centres at some stage and they actually covered that really well,” he added.

“But when you’re 12 men, your middle is just working that hard and I really felt that the boys worked really hard for each other.”

Maguire was pressed on whether there should be some sort of leniency in a showpiece game.

“I don’t know if you call it leniency, but I spoke about it before where earlier in the year nothing happened when he broke his jaw,” he replied.

“I guess this one was line ball because he was actually falling and the height of that just at last moment had Joey clip him a bit. But (it was) a big call in a big game.”

Queensland legend defends Sua’ali’i | 00:40

Maguire was “super proud” of his team’s efforts regardless of the 38-10 result — and is “confident” ahead of game two.

“I just spoke to the players about how hard they wanted to work for each other throughout the game. We put ourselves actually in positions at times where we were quite dominant,” he said.

“But I guess fatigue comes in at some stage. When you’re playing with a man down, you’ve got to really try and bury the opposition in the corners and fatigue finds you at some stage.

“But I’m actually really super proud of their efforts, individuals were out on their feet.

“It made it a bit tough but one thing I do know about this group is that they’ve really shifted the dime on where they see and how hard they want to work for the jersey.

“You have 13 players out there and it’s a different ball game. I’m really confident in where the players are taking what we’re doing.”

Trbojevic agreed, saying “there’s periods of there’s periods of the game we’ve got to take a lot of confidence from.”

He pointed to the first 20 minutes of the second half where he believes the Blues were “on top.”

“Got to give a lot of credit to the lads. They worked really hard and we put ourselves in a position there to be a puncher’s chance in the back end,” he said.

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