'Blue in waiting' on Panther alert
Immersed in Laurie Daley's New South Wales camp a fortnight ago before Origin II, Rabbitohs centre Dylan Walker hopes to take his experience with the Blues and use it to kick-start his backend of the season, starting this Friday night against Penrith.
Content to be wearing the cardinal and myrtle of South Sydney, Walker came agonisingly close to making his Origin debut when Josh Morris almost pulled out on game day due to back spasms.
While it didn't eventuate, Walker pointed out he took plenty away from the camp regardless as the squad's 19th man.
"It was an awesome experience to be a part of. It's every boy's dream to make it to that arena and I was lucky enough to be in that camp with such a great bunch of blokes," Walker told NRL.com.
"I took plenty away from their hunger and the desire they have. You can just see it in their eyes and the way they trained and even how they performed last game, it was special. It was a really exciting time.
"I was told on the morning [of the game] about [how I may play] but I knew 'J-Moz' was always going to play. You don't want to miss Origin because of little things. You just have to look at Robbie Farah and what he's trying to do just to play for his state – it's something too special to miss."
Backing NSW for the win in the Origin decider, Walker added his immediate focus was on the Rabbitohs, and while his ribs remain "a bit rattled" from a monstrous hit courtesy of Manly winger Jorge Taufua last Friday night, Walker said their 12-point win over the Sea Eagles will certainly prove important in the context of the reigning premiers' season.
With the Panthers coming up with a huge win over the Wests Tigers themselves in Round 16, Walker pointed to outside backs Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Dean Whare as Penrith's two danger men.
"It was a good performance [against Manly] but as a playing group and as a team we need to keep improving and that's what we're after this week," Walker said.
"There is a bit more joy around the camp though. The boys are happy, everyone has a smile on their face because everyone likes to stay positive. We just have to keep chipping away and keep doing what we were doing last week.
"Penrith are always a tough outfit – Whare and their new fullback Dallin, they are going really well so we'll really have to look after our game and really improve on last week. They are both really skilful players. Dean's a big handful especially."
While the Rabbitohs have beaten Penrith in their past four games, Walker said he isn't reading into recent history despite never losing to the club.