Dylan Walker has become a natural ball runner capable of taking control of Manly in the absence of star playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans, according to Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart.
The Sea Eagles confirmed on Monday Cherry-Evans will be sidelined for four weeks, after injuring his ankle in the round four win over Sydney Roosters. Jamie Buhrer will miss up to six weeks with a broken hand also suffered on Saturday night at Allianz Stadium.
In Cherry-Evans’ absence Walker will assume the role as the Sea Eagles’ shot caller for their round five match against his old club South Sydney at Brookvale Oval on Thursday night.
The former Kangaroos centre has shown steady improvement in his four matches at pivot so far and superstar fullback Stewart believes he can step up in the absence of Cherry-Evans.
“Walks might embrace it and take more ownership of the ball hopefully,” Stewart told reporters at the Sea Eagles’ Narrabeen base on Monday.
“Everyone can see he is a natural runner and the more he touches the ball, the more strike power we seem to have right across the board.
“Whoever steps in (for Cherry-Evans) will have to buy into what we are trying to build here and just get on the back of the momentum we are trying to start.”
Grand final-winning pivot Jamie Lyon is one possibility to move into the halves alongside Walker, Feleti Mateo is another.
Sam Burgess is likely to return from a neck injury for the Brookvale Oval clash, as Souths attempt to bounce back from their Good Friday thrashing from Canterbury.
Manly will be bolstered by the return of forwards Martin Taupau and Brenton Lawrence from suspension.
“Whether he (Burgess) plays or not, it is going to be a battle up front like it always is against Souths,” Stewart said.
“They have got a very big pack and our blokes are going to have to match it with them.
“We have got a bit of size this year, you look at young Jake (Trbojevic). He might not be the biggest bloke but he has got the biggest heart.
“When you see blokes like that, it is good to get behind them.”