South Sydney Rabbitohs‘ Cody Walker is in top form, as evidenced by his instrumental role in Alex Johnston‘s hat-trick during Saturday’s NRL match. Despite Titans centre Aaron Schoupp aiming to tackle him, Walker threw a quick-cutout pass to Johnston without even looking where his teammate was situated. During a post-match interview, Walker revealed that he has opted to focus more on being an “ultimate rugby league artist” in the past few months rather than being combustible, a reputation that has preceded him previously.
Walker’s form could prove invaluable for New South Wales Blues in the State of Origin Game Two in Brisbane, particularly if teammate Latrell Mitchell overcomes a calf injury in time for the match. The pair’s left-edge attack could offer a significant contribution to the Blues’ purely destructive attack, which looked disorganised for much of Game One against Queensland Maroons‘ defence coached by Billy Slater, Cameron Smith, and Jonathan Thurston.
Some experts predicted Nathan Cleary and Nicho Hynes to establish themselves as the Blues’ starting halves duo. However, this was always a shaky pairing as both are full-field playmakers that like to control teams from both sides of the ruck. The added complication was that Hynes traditionally defends on the same side of the field as Cleary. While Jarome Luai was an obvious choice due to his strong rapport with Cleary, it remains to be seen how well they will fare in Game Two.
Blues coach Brad Fittler may decide to wield the axe and make corrections between Game One and Game Two similar to last year when they saw five changes (albeit one forced through COVID-19) in the first-up loss to the second game in Perth. The moves worked in their favour, resulting in a dominant performance and victory.
Walker is no stranger to the Origin arena, having had his ups and downs in the tournament previously. Despite getting hooked on his debut in 2019 and losing his spot in the squad for their subsequent match, he has come a long way since. If the Blues are struggling against Slater’s brains trust, then Walker’s on-field intelligence could help level the playing field. His ambition to coach after his playing days are over shows in his style of play, making him a formidable force in rugby league‘s most challenging arena.
Walker’s former five-eighth, Wayne Bennett, once advised him to “just go be Cody Walker.” Given his current form, it is a safe bet that Fittler should consider starting him in Game Two to save the series and his job.