Lining up against the side he spent the first two seasons of his NRL career with for the first time since moving back to his junior club, Walsh was immense with ball in hand and inflicted much of the damage in front of a crowd of 52,273 at Suncorp Stadium.
The 21-year-old Queensland star's class and confidence was more evident than ever as he shook off an early intercept – which gifted Dallin Watene-Zelezniak a 60-metre runaway try – to set up three tries and lay on six line breaks for teammates, before leaving the field for an early rest with four left to play.
His performance was helped greatly by a dominant forward effort, with Payne Haas, Jordan Riki and Patrick Carrigan in particular able to dictate the pace of the game throughout.
The opening quarter saw a shootout of the most thrilling kind, as the two sides traded blows in an end-to-end contest.
Watene-Zelezniak opened things with a trademark diving effort, before he became the single season record holder for the Warriors with his 24th of the year after picking off a looping pass from Walsh and running 60 metres.
In between that Billy Walters burrowed over, before the Broncos put on a clinic down their left edge to score through Herbie Farnworth, Jesse Arthars and add another through Walters, which came after Walsh burst through the line and linked with his dummy-half back through the middle of the field.
Down 24-8 with 12 to play in the half, the Warriors had to be next to score and were, crossing through Marcelo Montoya after Adam Pompey was denied a set earlier but drew a penalty for a tackle off the ball.
But with Pompey pushing a third conversion wide, what could have been a one-score deficit remained 12 points at the break.
As it turned out the Broncos were far too good in the second half anyway, as things started to fall apart for the visitors, who had both Wayde Egan and Dylan Walker leave the field for HIAs which they passed and Pompey binned for a professional foul.
Brisbane took full advantage to put the result beyond doubt with further tries to Jordan Riki and Ezra Mam, giving them a 24-point lead with 16 to play which allowed coach Kevin Walters to take Adam Reynolds and Walsh out of the game early.
Even without their star No.7 on the field the Broncos kept the scoreboard ticking over with Farnworth grabbing his second of the night with 10 to play to confirm the final scoreline and set up a clash against the Panthers next Sunday at Accor Stadium.
- The Broncos are through to a grand final for the first time in eight years and have the chance to win their first premiership since 2006.
- Reece Walsh set up six line breaks, three tries and ran for 146 metres in the win.
- Both Dylan Walker and Wayde Egan underwent HIAs in the second half which they passed and returned from.
- Adam Pompey was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul in the 59th minute.
- The win was the Broncos ninth finals win at Suncorp Stadium in their last 10 attempts.
- With his 24th try of the year Dallin Watene-Zelezniak surpassed Francis Meli and David Fustiu'a's mark of 23 for most tries in a single season by a Warrior.
- The Broncos made 11 line breaks to the Warriors' four.
- Skipper Tohu Harris made a game-high 44 tackles, while Billy Walters led the way defensively for the Broncos with 36.
Play of the Game
Minutes on from throwing an intercept that led to four points at the other end, Reece Walsh showed the confidence he possesses by going right to the line and linking with Herbie Farnworth as Dallin Watene-Zelezniak flew out of the line looking to pick another pass off. From there Farnworth did brilliantly to bring the ball in and get to the line.
What They Said
"The support [fans] have given us, the movement, 'Up the Wahs', all that stuff, everywhere you go everyone is talking about rugby league. We couldn't have done it without them. I feel like the football program is in a good position for us to launch something here and stay consistent and challenge for grand finals and win grand finals. We have got to come back hungry for that and it's got to be in our actions, not just words." – Warriors coach Andrew Webster.
"It's a great achievement from everyone at the club. From where the club has been to where we are now, it's a good feeling. We need to enjoy that, but when we get back into work tomorrow or the next day just focus in on next week. A lot of people have done a lot of really great work, not just me or the players, a lot of staff, a lot of people upstairs in the building have done a great job building this team to where we are now." – Broncos coach Kevin Walters.
Brisbane now prepare to head to Sydney for their first shot at premiership glory since 2015. They'll face a Panthers side they know they have the ability to beat – having done so in their season-opener back in March before losing to them in Round 12 – and will be full of confidence after such a commanding win. For the Warriors the remarkable ride that was 2023 is over, but they'll likely be heavily represented in the Test squads for next month's Pacific Championships.
Story first published on NRL.com