Under-fire NSW utility Dylan Walker has enjoyed a timely return to form ahead of the announcement of the Blues team for State of Origin II, as his NRL coach Trent Barrett took aim at the “ridiculous” criticism the 21-year-old copped after game one.
Walker starred in Manly’s dramatic loss to Penrith at Brookvale Oval on Sunday.
The Sea Eagles pivot was one of the game’s best, setting up his side’s 24-4 lead with two tries on the back of a dominant first half effort.
The Panthers came roaring back to score 27 points in 29 minutes to claim the round 14 fixture. But by then Walker had already shown how his pace and elusiveness could be better used by Blues coach Laurie Daley from the bench in next week’s Origin II.
Walker was injected into game one in the final nine minutes as NSW pressed desperately for victory.
Despite the small opportunity he had to impress himself, the South Sydney premiership winner became a lightning rod for NSW’s lacklustre effort in their 6-4 loss.
Walker will likely again get the chance to prove himself in Brisbane next week. Daley names his side for the must-win Suncorp Stadium encounter on Monday.
NSW will need more than the solitary try they managed in Origin I if they are to force the series to a decider and Walker could be vital off the bench for the Blues.
Barrett said Walker would be an asset if chosen for game two, and said he couldn’t believe the vitriol thrown his playmaker’s way after NSW’s first-up defeat.
“I thought it was ridiculous the criticism he got after game one … he had nine minutes on the field … what did you want him to do?” former NSW five-eighth Barrett said.
“You would have criticised Laurie if he didn’t pick a utility on the bench and we got an injury in the backs in the first two minutes. You can’t have it both ways.
“Dylan Walker is a good player, he is a good footballer.”