Newcastle Rugby League: Former NRL halfback Luke Walsh set to arrive home in Australia, play for Wests in last two rounds

SOON: Wests recruit Luke Walsh playing for the Penrith Panthers in 2013. Picture: Brendan Esposito
SOON: Wests recruit Luke Walsh playing for the Penrith Panthers in 2013. Picture: Brendan Esposito

Luke Walsh is set to arrive home in Australia on Friday but Western Suburbs coach Matt Lantry says he’s not willing to risk the former NRL playmaker this weekend despite being down on troops for Saturday’s crucial clash with Maitland.

Lantry said even with the Rosellas’ “injury toll” it “wasn’t worth the risk” to put 31-year-old Walsh on the park against the ladder-leading Pickers less than 24 hours after landing off a day-long flight from France. 

It means the now retired Catalans Dragons halfback and former Knights and Panthers general will more than likely have a “dip” for Wests, currently locked in a battle to make next month’s Newcastle Rugby League finals, against Kurri and Macquarie in the last two rounds. 

“At this stage of the season, and with the situation we’re in, we don’t want to rush anyone,” Lantry said.

“It’s not worth the risk, especially with how much we have too play for the next few weeks.” 

Walsh signed with junior club Wests on the eve of the 2018 mid-season transfer deadline after damaging ankle ligaments and retiring from the English Super League in April.  

His unavailability for the Rosellas has been eased somewhat by returning five-eighth Ryan Stig, who had no case to answer this week despite being put on report in Saturday’s 20-12 loss to the Bulldogs at Kurri Sportsground.         

Wests captain Mark Taufua has been suspended for one match after taking the early guilty plea on Wednesday for a crusher tackle.

Lantry said Taufua was set to be replaced in the Rosellas front-row by Viko Puliuvea with Felise Taufaao out injured and Uti Baker shifting to lock for the sidelined Warren Schillings.

The coach said Stig would start from the bench with Jordan Worboys and Chad O’Donnell to partner in the halves. Reigning player of the year Ryan Walker and centre Brad Tighe are also out injured.

Regular winger Willis Alatini looks set to slot in at fullback like he did at late notice on the weekend after Walker (hamstring) pulled out in the warm-up. 

Liam Wilkinson may now have a more permanent role at hooker with Chris Knight possibly out for the remainder of the season.

Wests are equal fourth on the competition ladder, two points behind upcoming opponents Maitland and two points in front of sixth-placed challengers Kurri.