Dylan walks tall after City exposure
A week in the company of representative stars has shown South Sydney centre Dylan Walker what it takes to excel at the highest level and he put it straight into practice in a scintillating display against the Titans on Saturday night.
Walker scored the Rabbitohs' first of the night in just the second minute and added three more for good measure, the first time in his 19 young years that he has ever scored that many tries in a game of rugby league at any level.
Having started the season at five-eighth as coach Michael Maguire looked to capitalise on his abundant skills in the wake of the injury to Luke Keary, Walker's shift back to the centres has coincided with a Rabbitohs resurgence that has them knocking on the door of the top four yet again.
Although his opposite number in the City-Country fixture Jamal Idris walked away with man-of-the-match honours, Walker went to school on the class of players such as City teammates Will Hopoate, Andrew Fifita, Matt Moylan and Daniel Tupou and returned from Dubbo a different player.
"Dylan Walker, from his experience with the City team, he brought that back into camp and he showed that tonight with his tries and young Alex Johnston showed some good speed there which was pleasing," Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said of his pair of 19-year-old outside backs who combined for six tries between them. "I thought our forwards really laid a really good platform early on and that's where it allows our edges to be able to come up with those tries.
"It's the experience they gain from [playing representative football]. I was lucky enough a few years ago to be a part of the Country team and you see players come into those rep teams and they learn more about themselves because they are seeing what other players are doing and how they can grow so I guess today was a good example of young Dylan Walker and Adam Reynolds.
"[Adam] had a sore back but he fought through it and it's those sorts of things that teammates do for each other."
The Rabbitohs bolted out of the blocks to lead the Titans 22-0 after 19 minutes and after going into the break leading 22-12 refocused their energies on attacking through the middle of the ruck and resumed their stranglehold with a try three minutes after the break.
With an average age of just 20, Walker, Johnston, Kirisome Auva'a and Apisai Koroisau gave Rabbitohs fans a glimpse into the future with outstanding performances that pleased – but didn't surprise – coach Maguire.
"I wouldn't say surprised, they've been working hard just like our senior boys and I probably give a fair bit of credit to our senior players," Maguire said of their adjustment to life in the NRL.
"John (Sutton) and Sam (Burgess) and quite a few of the senior guys have been looking after these young guys coming through into grade."
Still pushing for the Blues five-eighth jersey for Origin I, at 29 years of age Sutton is now the old man of the Rabbitohs backline and is delighted with the way Johnston, Auva'a and Koroisau have made the most of their chance to step up into the NRL.
"Ever since they came into pre-season they've really worked hard and put their hand up," Sutton said. "'Madge' has given them an opportunity and they've taken it so we're really pleased with the way they're going. Hopefully they just continue to keep getting better."