Sydney Roosters players are confident axed halfback Sam Walker will quickly bounce back as they welcome the return of Kangaroos forward Angus Crichton for the ANZAC Day clash with St George Illawarra.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson sprung the biggest selection bombshell of the season when he dropped Walker and moved Kiwi superstar Joey Manu to partner Luke Keary in the halves after back-to-back losses to the Storm and Sharks.
Manu was awarded the IRL Golden Boot before last November’s World Cup final as the 2022 international player of the year and moving him closer to the ball will ensure he has greater involvement.
However, Walker made his 50th NRL appearance just three weeks ago and team-mates say the 20-year-old, who is widely touted as a future Queensland Origin representative, will benefit from a stint in NSW Cup.
“I am sure he will cop it on the chin, take a lot of lessons from it and work on his craft,” Tonga and NSW winger Daniel Tupou said.
He will probably get a bit of time to reflect and work on his game.
“He is a confident player and he is going to be a superstar.”
Prop Matt Lodge said it was an opportunity for Walker to enjoy his football with less pressure on him to perform.
“Personally, I have played with a lot of halves, but Sam Walker can do things that pretty much no one else can because he is a special player,” Lodge said.
I think the game in general puts a lot of pressure on these young guys to nail every part of their game.
“[Halfback] is probably the hardest position on the field, and I think history shows that takes time so he is doing an unreal job.
“He is a 10-to15 year first grader, easily. He has got the world at his feet and all the time to do it, but no-one can be in top form for 15 years in a career.”
Paul Momirovski replaces Walker after making his return last weekend for North Sydney and he will play in the centres, with Manu, who played fullback two weeks ago in the absence of captain James Tedesco, shifting to five-eighth.
Manu missed the start of the season after suffering facial fractures during a training camp in Queenstown and received a suspension after the Round 3 clash with South Sydney that sidelined him until the match in Melbourne two weeks ago.
He and Tedesco have barely played together this season as the Australian and NSW captain was concussed in the Round 5 triumph against Parramatta and missed the Storm match due to the NRL’s 11-day mandatory stand-down period.
With Crichton last weekend playing his first match since the World Cup final against Newtown, in a side which included former Eels second-rower Nathan Brown and ex-Maroons prop Dylan Napa, the Roosters are nearing full strength.
Crichton will start in the second-row for next Tuesday’s match against the Dragons at Allianz Stadium, while Tonga international Sitili Tupouniua has been named on the interchange after making his comeback for the Bears last weekend.
“I think first and foremost it is good to see him healthy and he is happy,” Lodge said of Crichton. “I personally love playing with him.
“I rate him as one of the best backrowers in the comp, and I am sure that the physicality he brings to the team is going to get everyone else up. He gets us on the front foot in defence and attack so it is great to have him back.”
In a further boost for the Roosters, Tupou revealed that he was close to finalising a new deal with the club.