Walker Enjoying Footy But Sick Of Origin Talk
In-form Manly centre Dylan Walker is riding a high after match-winning plays in both of Manly's past two wins – but just don't mention the 'O' word around the 2016 Blues debutant after a baptism of fire last year.
The 22-year-old Mascot junior was a controversial selection on the bench for Origin I last year and pilloried by fans for reasons beyond his control after a nine-minute stint at the end of the 6-4 loss.
He acquitted himself well as a starting centre in Game Two, doing an impressive job marking the much larger Greg Inglis without setting the world on fire before missing the Game Three dead rubber victory when Josh Dugan returned from injury.
Walker reckons he's playing better now than when he was then, in his preferred spot at right centre, and while he would love another crack in that arena he's clearly scarred from the hostile reception that surrounded his debut.
"To be honest I'm sick and tired of the Origin talk," a forthright Walker said.
"There's a lot of people throwing different names around – which they're entitled to because they want the best team out there and I want the best team out there too."
He added coach Laurie Daley was doing a great job with the squad after blooding plenty of debutants last year and wouldn't want to be in the coach's shoes as he mulls over a host of form centres for Game One this year.
"If it comes my way I'll take it with two hands and really try and make it mine but that only comes if we're doing well as a team and I only want it if I deserve it," Walker said.
"[Daley] has a lot of options there, there's James Roberts who's a real flyer and Jack Bird, Jarryd Hayne, Josh Morris, Michael Jennings. You've got all these players – he's got a [selection] headache. As a Blues player you want the best team out there and you want them to win. Whoever he picks 100 per cent you're going to back them."
Hayne, in particular, would be a necessity for the Blues according to Walker – even if it was at centre pushing Walker down the pecking order.
"It will only help to have Jarryd Hayne back. He's a superstar," Walker said.
"No matter how many people have questioned him playing in club land you know he's going to rise to those occasions in Origin. He's a big game player and I believe he should be there."
Walker agreed with an assessment that he was playing better now than when he was actually picked for his Origin debut last year when he was having an up-and-down time trying to make a fist of the five-eighth position vacated by Kieran Foran.
"I think I am [playing better now]. I was playing in a position that, I was familiar with it but probably not my best position," he said.
"I like it back out in the centres, I can roam around and pop up wherever I like but at the same time I've got to do my job out there, make my tackles and kick the goals."
If he does get the chance though, Walker said he would love to return to the City Origin jersey for the last ever City-Country fixture having earned his first back in 2014.
"I love those games, you go into camp with other rep players," Walker said.
"My first one was in 2014, that was a pretty good game, it was a good week to get away.
"'Freddie' (City coach Brad Fittler) takes that and you go cook dinner for the homeless people. There are parts that are footy and parts that are giving back as well."
This article first appeared on NRL.com