All in order for Panthers playmaker Walsh
When it comes to being Luke Walsh’s team-mate – or housemate – you’d better know where things go and where you’ve got to be.
“He’s a very neat bloke,” is how house-mate – and team-mate – Dayne Weston describes the former Newcastle halfback.
“I think he’s got obsessive compulsive disorder. Everything’s got to be in order. You put anything out of place and he goes a bit crazy.”
Weston, you see, is the poor ol’ room-mate who, despite not ruling out claims to being somewhat of a Mr Sheen himself, still cops it from the halfback who always wears his cap backwards.
“And I’m pretty neat myself,” Weston continues. “He’s like any normal halfback. He orders me around the house, but don’t worry, I give my fair share back. When everything’s in order at home, it makes things a lot easier too. That’s probably why he’s going so well!”
So while you now know a little bit of what Walsh is like with his footy boots off, you can just imagine what the little general is like with his footy boots on. Every time the man with the whistle raises his hand and screams out “Last!” you’d better know where you’re supposed to be for the fifth-tackle play. Or else.
“Yeah, I’m pretty much the same on the field. That’s my job – to get everyone where they need to be, otherwise I blow up a bit,” Walsh admits to Big League.
“That’s the way I am. Everything’s got to be in place and everything’s just got to be done. I’m pretty tidy around the house. I’ve got to have everything spotless. You eat, everything’s got to be washed.”
He kicks, and everyone’s got to be in their spots.
That’s why the former heir to Andrew Johns has a bag of tricks that netted him a competition-high 32 try assists last season. And another 16 for a Penrith side that still ranks fourth in points scored in 2011 despite spending most of the year outside the top eight.
But while his red boots have certainly earned him plenty of plaudits the past 18 months – he was nominated as Halfback of the Year in 2010 – current coach Steve Georgallis and halves partner Travis Burns say the 24-year-old has more left in the bag.
“Walshy’s got a really strong kicking game but he’s got a strong running game, too, which people don’t realise,” Burns says. “I really think he’s brought that out the past few weeks and it’s a big part of why we’re going so well.”
And Georgallis, who has built a strong relationship with Walsh since the Wests Newcastle junior arrived at the club in 2009, looks to be the key to unleashing Walsh’s full repertoire as the season goes on.
“He’s a halfback with all the skills. He’s got a great kicking game, and he’s got really good vision,” Georgallis enthuses. “He can see holes sometimes quicker than what the players can adjust to. But mate, he’s just got a great football brain.
“He’s always had that passing game, but if you’re not playing good football, it’s hard to bring out. And if players aren’t in position to do it, well, you’re passing to no-one.
“I try and make a bit of a structure for him to play football and lately it’s been working.
“I’ve got that much respect for his football brain that he needs to unleash it. It’s like anything – if you’re not allowed to do what you do best, you can get frustrated and not play good football. He’s just got to learn – sometimes he needs to curb that exuberance that he has.”
Walsh, reluctant to criticise the game plan of former coach Matt Elliott, said he felt like he was playing the best football of his career.
“It suits my game to a tee. I love it,” he says.
“We’ve opened up the field a little bit and the outside backs are getting better ball. Matty had a few good ideas, too, but we were playing with no confidence, no belief.
“But we’ve got that back with ‘Georgie’. He’s said to go out there and do what you do best: play footy and have fun.”
And make sure players are where they need to be, a trait that only Georgallis could tell his playmaker to tone down.
“Lewie and Pet were a bit flat because of Origin, and a few of the boys were down on energy [last week],” Walsh says.
“But I felt all right and Georgie said that when I get in that situation, I’ve got to pipe down a little bit and don’t get over-enthusiastic. I was probably a bit jumpy.”