Sam Walker only has 55 minutes of finals footy under his belt, but the star Roosters playmaker is the man who can dominate September as the Tricolours gear up for their most unlikely premiership charge.
- Roosters halfback Sam Walker was benched in last year’s finals
- The young playmaker has vastly improved in his second season in the league
- The Roosters face a sudden-death finals clash with the Rabbitohs
The reigning rookie of the year, Walker quickly became one of the club’s key attacking players after making his debut early in 2021, but was benched in the lead-up to the semi-finals.
Across the Roosters’ two finals matches, Walker played just 55 minutes, including just nine in the week one victory over the Titans where he kicked the winning field goal.
This time around, Walker is helping run the show and with the Roosters playing like they believe they can become just the third team ever to win the competition from outside the top four, he is set to take the finals by storm.
Crucially, Walker does not just have some of the finest attacking instincts of any halfback in the league, he has the courage to follow them – case in point was his sharp try against South Sydney in last week’s victory at the new Sydney Football Stadium.
“If I start doubting myself, there’s no point doing it. You have to back yourself. I’ve made a mistake doing it a couple of times and I’m still trying to find that balance between the right play at the right time,” Walker said.
“[Coach Trent Robinson] just lets me play instinctive footy if I feel that space there. I’ve done it a fair few times where it hasn’t paid off, but he’s kept his faith in me and this time it paid off.
“If they pop up, they pop up. I’m always looking for those opportunities.
“It’s just instinct, I’ve been doing since I was a kid – if you see the fullback come up, there’s going to be space there.”
It has been a solid sophomore season for Walker, who has managed to avoid the dreaded second-season syndrome that plagues so many rookie sensations.
His combination with Luke Keary has caught fire since the two swapped positions, with Walker reclaiming the halfback jersey, and brought the Tricolours’ ailing premiership charge back to life in the past eight weeks.
“Physically, I’m a bit better. I got a preseason under my belt and my shoulders have held up pretty well, which is good, and I feel a bit bigger and stronger,” Walker said.
“Kez [Keary] is in career-best form at the moment, he’s playing unbelievable footy and I’m just worried about doing my job well because he really dominates games for us.”
With star centre Joseph Manu set to miss the rest of the season with a torn calf, the Roosters will be relying on Walker and Keary more than ever in Sunday’s rematch with the Rabbitohs.
It is a serious blow to the club’s premiership aspirations, which have come into clear focus after they finished the season with eight straight wins, including last week’s win over their old rivals.