The pink mouth guard surrounded by a massive grin on the face of Dylan Walker when he crossed for two tries last night said it all.
He’s not just comfortable back in his usual position of right centre; he’s loving it, dominating like he did as a part of the South Sydney Rabbitohs premiership-winning outfit of 2014.
As he charged onto a beautiful Brian Kelly pass and burst through a hole to score the match-winning try against the Roosters on Friday, Walker found himself back on the State of Origin radar, particularly due to the fact that the VB Blues’ right centre position was shared between four players throughout the 2016 series.
The torrid conditions had no negative impact on Walker, who gave Manly the lead in the 65th minute when he athletically pounced on a pin-point grubber from Blake Green, before hitting the front again – this time for good – in a 45 metre dash that saw him burn Michael Gordon and out-run Daniel Tupou on his way to the line.
While coach Trent Barrett was impressed with Walker’s performance and try-scoring ability, he was equally happy to see his combinations with new recruits Kelly and Green flourishing.
“[Walker] is doing well, he scored two special tries that not a lot of individuals could have scored,” Barrett said post-match.
“[It was a] beautiful pass from Brian Kelly, he’s been outstanding for us, and ‘Greeny’ [Blake Green] laid on the kick for Dylan.
“Team effort again, we have to play as a team to win, we can’t rely on individuals.”
Aside from his brilliant form at club level, Walker has the benefit of two Origin games under his belt to justify selection for the VB Blues, if required, this year.
Tom Trbojevic is another in-form rising star from Manly stating his Origin case, but a former VB Blue in Akuila Uate has stood up and impressed Barrett, also.
Curtis Sironen is yet another new recruit clearly enjoying his time at the northern beaches, and perhaps it is the off season signings that are the key in turning the 2016 thirteenth-placed Manly side last year into a potential premiership threat.
“Those guys we’ve got here all have a bit of a point to prove and I think Akuila Uate has been one of our most consistent players over the last month,” Barrett said.
“Frank Winterstein has been good for us, ‘Siro’ [Curtis Sironen] has been terrific for us.
“There’s a lot of unheralded players in our team that not a lot of people sit up and take notice of, but they’ve worked bloody hard to put themselves in the positions they’re in.”