He was the single selection that provoked the most discussion in State of Origin 2016 and while his utility value was never truly required, Dylan Walker showed glimpses of his best in his second game.
Having relocated to the Sea Eagles for the 2016 NRL season, the former Rabbitoh found himself in what is arguably not his best position; the loss of Kieran Foran left the no.6 jersey to fill, which Walker took to willingly. Unfortunately, the Sea Eagles struggled throughout the opening rounds, but showed enough versatility to be selected on Laurie Daley’s bench for Origin I.
There’s no denying that Walker’s selection caught many by surprise, but he fits the bill of exactly what Daley was seeking: a player who can comfortably play anywhere in the back line, halves, or can hold his own in defence if thrown into hooker or second row. Primarily used as injury cover, the VB Blues were fortunate not to require his services for the majority of the series opener, before he was thrown on for added spark in the 70th minute.
Walker ran just once for five metres in his 10-minute stint, but was a significant help in defence with 11 tackles. It provided needed relief for the big men around him and while they couldn’t seal a result, his impact was underestimated by much of the Rugby League public.
Earning a second call-up in Origin II, Walker was once again named as a bench utility, but this time he would be needed to cover injury. Centre Josh Morris went down in training camp, allowing Walker a starting role and bringing Jack Bird onto the bench in the no.18 jersey.
Many expected a last-minute swap with Bird prior to kick-off, but this didn’t eventuate and Walker got the chance to prove himself over 80 minutes. The 21-year-old didn’t disappoint, with 106 metres and 18 tackles in the centres along with a line-break.
Walker wasn’t recalled for the series finale, but at such a young age will hope to return to the Origin arena at some stage in the future. Having already represented City, his state and his country, his ability to perform at the highest level is unquestionable and will only improve with greater consistency.