Manly star recruit Dylan Walker is facing one of the biggest acid tests of his NRL career during his grudge match against former club South Sydney on Thursday.
Not only is Walker is expected to hog the limelight in the lead up to the Brookvale Oval clash in the wake of his bitter exit from Redfern, he will be forced to guide the side around the park without injured halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans.
Following his side’s costly 22-20 win over the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night, Walker refused to talk about the Rabbitohs, who he parted ways with late last year following his prescription drug scandal.
Walker left the club on bad terms, with his barrister Julieanne Levick saying her client was “used and abused” and “treated like a piece of meat” after they failed to properly look after during a series of injuries.
She said their poor treatment of the former Test centre contributed to his hospitalisation for an overdose on prescription painkillers.
Walker has pledged that he has moved on and showed signs that he was adapting to his new teammates, and new position of five-eighth, in the side’s close win over the Sea Eagles.
He showed rare power and speed to cross for a decisive second-half try which swung the momentum as his side clocked their second win of the season.
“Last week was a good one and the first two (games) weren’t too good but every week we get more and more comfortable with each other,” Walker said of his transition from the centres to the halves.
“It was just a good gritty win … I grew up playing five-eighth and (the NRL) is a different level but as time goes it’s going to get better and better.”
Walker’s real test will be guiding the team around the park without dominant playmaker Cherry-Evans, who is expected to be out for a month.
The former Queensland pivot was sent for scans and faces an extended stint on the sidelines, leaving Walker in control of the side after just four games in the halves.
“(Losing) Cherry-Evans is going to affect every team,” Walker said.
“We have to move on from that.
“We’re really excited about what kind of performance we put in tonight. It was just a hard effort. We’ll look at it in the next couple of days and what we have to do and go from there.”