Reece Walsh’s imminent signing in Brisbane has seemingly happened suddenly, but the fact that the club can welcome its rising star back is the culmination of work that has been going on for some time.
Walsh, 19, will return to the club he left last year after the New Zealand Warriors released him with two years left on his contract.
Walsh is one of the most sought-after talents in the game and the Broncos were able to fend off the fierce interest of incoming city rivals, the Dolphins, to bring about the big signing coup.
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The fact that the Broncos have room for the salary cap to fit Walsh in is the result of some tough phone calls over the years.
Once credited as the club’s long-term fullback, Jamayne Isaako was released mid-season to join the Gold Coast Titans, while hooker Jake Turpin has been told he’s free to go anytime before his deal expires at the end of the season. Those exits alone are expected to free up about $500,000 in cap space.
It comes after Kevin Walters previously made some tough calls to release the likes of Tevita Pangai Jr, Matt Lodge and Anthony Milford in his first year as a Broncos coach.
Brisbane will also lose Brenko Lee (Dolphins) and Rhys Kennedy (Hull KR, Super League) at the end of the season, while a host of players will remain out of contract – including Ryan James, Albert Kelly, Te Maire Martin, David Mead, Corey Oates, Keenan Palasia and Billy Walters.
Foxsports.com.au understands that James and Mead are retiring at the end of the season, while Martin gets the chance to stick around for a bargain deal. Others are likely to leave, even with recent contract extensions awarded to stars Selwyn Cobbo, Harbie Farnworth and Patrick Carrigan, the club is in a strong position to welcome Walsh back.
According to an courier post report, Walsh’s Broncos contract won’t break the bank and is a relatively minor upgrade from his current $400,000-per-season deal with the Warriors.
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The signing marks a major coup for the front office of Walters and the Broncos, which include football and performance director Ben Ikin and chief executive Dave Donaghy.
Speaking shortly after his appointment earlier in the year, Ikin outlined the Broncos’ strategy that would be based on youth development rather than selection.
“Between the top 30 and the development list, we have a core group of players here that we can build our future around. We would only want to go to the market in an extraordinary situation,” Ikin said.
That “extraordinary” situation occurred when Walsh wanted to return to Australia and the Broncos were perfectly poised to strike.