After delivering a brutal parting shot via his lawyer to South Sydney, Dylan Walker is expected to answer Manly’s halves conundrum.
Walker was on Thursday released from the final year of his Rabbitohs contract just hours after the club made public its findings into an incident in which the former Test centre and winger Aaron Gray overdosed on prescription medication.
The pair was accused of bringing the club into disrepute, prompting a stinging criticism from Walker’s lawyer who said the 21-year-old had been treated “like a peace of meat”.
Julieanne Levick savaged the Rabbitohs in light of Walker’s punishment, claiming that his reputation had been stained.
“The board has come to the conclusion that Walker has abused prescription medication in the absence of any expert opinion,” she said.
“This is such an unsatisfactory outcome in any view especially considering how this kid has been treated like a piece of meat in the face of serious injury throughout the 2015 season.
“He has been sucked in, chewed out and well and truly spat out.
“Walker has got a release that his counsel was pushing for but at a totally unacceptable price, that being his reputation.”
Walker asked for a release earlier this month and the Rabbitohs said he had been let go so that he could take up an extended deal with another club, believed to be Manly.
Incoming Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett is said to view Walker as a ready-made replacement for New Zealand five-eighth Kieran Foran, who has departed for Parramatta.
Manly said Walker had not put pen to paper but it is understood the deal will be announced in the coming days.
It appeared that Walker’s relationship with the Rabbitohs had become untenable however Souths coach Michael Maguire wished him well and praised his contribution to the club.
“I have known Dylan since he was 17 years of age, we have had some great times together and he has many good attributes,” Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said.
“I spoke to Dylan about staying however I appreciate his desire to secure his long-term playing future.”
Both Walker and Gray were fined five per cent of their 2015 contract value and Gray will be forced to undertake education programs, 20 hours of community service and undergo regular testing for drugs including prescription medication.
After the pair fronted the Souths board earlier this month, the club this week finalised its investigation which has been approved by the NRL integrity unit.
The club said while there was no evidence the pair had alcohol or illicit substances in their system, they had overdosed on pain-killing drugs which had been prescribed by their GP following surgery.
Walker and Gray were rushed to hospital in the early hours of September 22 after suffering drug overdoses and were released from hospital three days later.
The incident has resulted in the Rabbitohs strengthening their medications policy and their code of conduct and to increase player education on the dangers of prescription medicine, the club said.