Sam Walker has been hailed as “a throwback to … the 90s” and Reece Walsh “attacking dynamite”, after the young guns were today shortlisted for one of the most prestigious awards in rugby league.
The exceptional debut seasons of Roosters halfback Walker and Warriors fullback Walsh have culminated in the teen stars being shortlisted for this year’s Rugby League Players Association Rookie of the Year award.
When the winner of the prize is announced next Sunday, either Walker or Walsh will join an elite list of names – one that includes Sonny Bill Williams, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cameron Munster and Cody Walker.
Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns says Walker has shades of several great halfbacks of yesteryear.
“He’s a throwback to an era where halfbacks would debut in the 90s and they would play what they see, they would take risks, they throw long balls, they’d look up, they’d take the line on themselves,” Johns told Wide World of Sports.
“The thing is with Sam (is) he plays without a safety net; he’s not a robot, like we see (of) a lot of the young halves that come into play.
“He’s been educated by his father (Ben Walker) and his uncles (Chris and Shane) and they play a certain style of footy. It’s been based on how halves would play in the 90s: Ricky Stuart, Allan Langer, these sorts of players. And it’s so refreshing to watch, I love watching him play.”
Walker has been tasked with steering a depleted Roosters outfit around the park this season but, despite not having the on-field support of the likes of Luke Keary, Jake Friend, Boyd Cordner and Brett Morris, he’s nailed the challenge.
Not only has the wily playmaker absorbed relentless attacking raids from the opposition big men, he’s set up 19 tries from 20 games.
In last night’s elimination final he showed poise beyond his years to come on for the last 10 minutes before owning the biggest moment of the game against the Titans, killing them off with a late field-goal that ensured the Roosters would live to see another day thanks to a 25-24 win.
Fellow Queenslander Walsh shone for the Warriors after the New Zealand club poached him from the Broncos in April.
The speedster crossed for nine tries and set up 11 others throughout his 16 appearances this season, his brilliance leading to a sensational Maroons State of Origin squad call-up.
“So many of the Warriors’ opportunities come off the back of Reece Walsh … Such an exciting player and he’ll get better with the support and the players that follow him,” Ferguson said.
“But the thing that just stands out to me is his competitiveness. He’s got a bit of mongrel in him, which you need to play NRL, but particularly (in) his position.
“He goes above and beyond for his teammates and he’s just, again, such an exciting footy player.”
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