On the no-fault stand rule, Dylan Walker is about to learn how costly an exercise sitting out of the game for an extended period can be. While much focus has been on de Belin and his contract situation – he is unsigned beyond the end of next season – former Australian and NSW representative Walker needs to swiftly move to shore up his future beyond this year.
Sitting out the first nine weeks will do nothing to help his value, which others argue had already diminished before he was charged and subsequently found not guilty of assaulting his fiancee. On a side note, security were issued instructions with how to handle Walker’s first game back at PointsBet Stadium on Sunday.
Maroons death greatly exaggerated: Smith
Just a week from the State of Origin sides being chosen, Queensland statesman Cameron Smith remains baffled with all the doom and gloom about the Maroons. And he thinks Jake Granville should be a genuine contender for the No.9 role. «There is [a lot of negativity] but I don’t know why,» Smith said. «I really don’t see it as bad as some people think. I’m really confident in the young guys that will come through. They can create their own piece of Origin history and grab that Queensland jersey like so many of us have and really make that jersey their own. And go out and show the state what they can do.»
Smith acknowledged Ben Hunt will be in the Queensland side somewhere but wants selectors to consider Cowboys gun Granville, who needs to beat a dangerous contact charge to have one final Origin audition next week, as the Maroons hooker. «I’ve watched a little bit of the Cowboys this year and he’s brought his running game back,» Smith said. «He’s got some zip out of dummy-half and he’s a great defender which is what you need. He’s an option.»
Fittler hears, doesn’t listen to Bennett
Brad Fittler’s not in any rush to heed the advice of master coach Wayne Bennett, who lashed struggling Penrith halves and NSW incumbents James Maloney and Nathan Cleary as no hope of being picked under a severe challenge from Rabbitohs Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds and the Roosters’ Luke Keary. «When he speaks about State of Origin with his Souths jacket on, I don’t think he’s got the best interest [at heart] necessarily for NSW when he’s giving advice for [the Blues],» Fittler told The Footy Show. «I really respect and appreciate Wayne’s thoughts and I love how when he wants to poke his nose into Origin he does. He’s really boosted the performance of his halves.»
Away from the halves, one selection decision receiving nowhere near as much air time is the battle for the right wing. Fittler concedes it’s one spot which remains firmly up in the air heading into next weekend with Blake Ferguson in the frame for a stunning Origin return if he can edge out Nick Cotric.
Manager makes case for Walker
If you want to get a glimpse into perhaps how personal the battle is between Keary and Walker for the NSW No.6 jersey, maybe it pays to log into the Twittersphere. Walker’s manager Matt Rose used his personal account to argue Fittler could not possibly ignore his client, who played another match-winning hand for Rabbitohs against the Raiders on Saturday night. But then he went a step further by saying the Roosters’ Keary, who won last year’s Clive Churchill Medal, couldn’t be ahead of Walker in the pecking order. The pair famously exchanged words in South Sydney’s opening round win over the Roosters.
Yeo shoulders Panthers’ burden
Panthers back-rower Isaah Yeo is willing to delay surgery on his dislocated shoulder until the end of the season in order to help the NRL’s bottom club out of a massive hole. Yeo hasn’t played since being injured in Penrith’s loss to the Raiders in Wagga Wagga and was told he would need surgery to correct the problem. But he could be back on the field within a month. «There’s going to have to be surgery eventually, but that will be at the end of the year,» Yeo said. «That’s the road we’ve taken. I could have had the reco that week [after hurting the shoulder] or have a period off and get it at the end of the year. That’s what we’re taking. We’re all happy with that path and option we’re taking.»
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.