Home Australia Can Sam Walker’s Anzac Day masterclass be the start of something big for the Roosters?

Can Sam Walker’s Anzac Day masterclass be the start of something big for the Roosters?

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Can Sam Walker's Anzac Day masterclass be the start of something big for the Roosters?

Sam Walker has always been a big-play running back.

Winning field goals in final games? He has two of them.

Long, sliced ​​passes that seem to float in the air forever before landing right where they need to? He is your man.

An attack kick at the start of the tackle count? You know he’ll pull the trigger, no questions asked.

When you play fast and straight and your instincts combine with your training, wonderful things can happen.

In the Roosters’ 60-18 Anzac Day win over St George Illawarra there was that moment before half-time, an audacious chip and chase inside the red zone should have ended with Walker scoring a brilliant try that opened the game.

It didn’t happen that way – Dragons utility Nu Brown took out Walker’s legs and a penalty try was awarded instead – but it was still a moment that shows everything that can be exhilarating in the youngster’s game. runner.

He was in that mood all day as the Roosters looked a little more like the team they are supposed to be. They were fast, powerful and direct as they have only occasionally been in 2024.

Walker was at the center of a lot of things they did right. It was not just the penalty try or the 10 goals from as many attempts, or the precise shots for the tries by Joseph Manu and Nat Butcher or even the three abandonments that were forced, although all of those were the characteristics of the Tricolors’ success.

It was also how he kept the team’s attack straight and direct, something crucial for the Roosters if they are to unlock his many gifts, and the way he played with tremendous energy, especially on defense.

Despite his offensive acumen, coach Trent Robinson will no doubt highlight a pair of tackles just before halftime, one to pin Tyrell Sloan and a second on Kyle Flanagan moments later to force a turnover, during the week.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Walker do all these things and look so dangerous and seem like the only limit to what he can do with the ball is his own imagination.

It’s been that way since his first days in first grade, but maintaining those moments hasn’t always been easy for Walker. You can trace the line of his career and the peaks and valleys of him through these Anzac Day games.

The first came in just his fourth NRL game of 2021 and he was impressive, scoring a try and setting up five more in a 34-10 rout.

The following year he was outfoxed by the wily Ben Hunt, a player of imperfect skill but indomitable spirit, when the much-loved Roosters were short-circuited in a 14-12 spill.

Last season he didn’t even play in the marquee match – he was running at Wentworth Park for the Tricolors’ NSW Cup team as part of a spell in reserve grade.

None of this inconsistency is fatal for Walker. It’s not even a problem. Most young halves go through similar patterns because development is rarely a linear process.

Although he is in the fourth year of first grade, he is still 21 years old. She still has a long time left and, in reality, she is just getting started.

Runners are reaching their prime later and later in their careers, which makes sense if you stop seeing them as Messiahs and more as men; Everything gets easier the more often you do it, even leading rugby league teams around the park.

The problem is that there is no time to wait. The Roosters are a team seemingly built for perpetual success. His star power demands results now, not tomorrow, not next year, but now.

They were dominant against the Dragons, as they have been at times this year, but there were several lapses throughout their campaign to the point where the pressure started to ramp up a bit.

If you follow some strange rugby league logic, you can turn his inconsistency into a measure of Walker’s importance to the team.

He missed most of the game against the Bulldogs due to HIA, which also kept him out of last week’s loss to Melbourne. This game was his return and the team looked much better with his presence.

The team faces the same challenge as their running back: how do they master their many gifts and channel the enthusiasm they can play with and their penchant for moments of brilliance into something sustainable and repeatable?

Can Walker have a game with no big plays but plenty of little ones? The kind of game where there’s no magic in the highlight but his fingerprints are all over it? He can skin a team alive if he has a sharp knife, can he separate them if his sword dulls?

For a player as young as Walker, that’s part of growing up. For a whole party, it can be a maddening process. The root of both thoughts is the same: how can you see what they did against the Dragons and not want more?

A win of this magnitude in this style will set the horses racing because at times it feels like the entire league is waiting for the Roosters to return to the heights they enjoyed in their premiership years in 2018 and 2019.

But this has happened before, for Walker and his team. There have been many times over the last four seasons where they have enjoyed victories like this, where Walker seems limitless and his team flies along with him, only for things to fall apart shortly after.

Next week the Roosters head to Brisbane to take on the Broncos, one of the true giants of the competition. For the Roosters and Walker to compete with the league’s top teams, they will need to apply all their skill, power and spirit, and they will need to do it every minute.

It’s a true test of their mettle, a rematch of their season opener in Las Vegas, where the Roosters pulled off a stunning victory that they haven’t been able to match since, and it wasn’t big plays that did it for either Walker or his team. team, but a lot of small ones.

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