Debutant Rabbitohs playmaker Cody Walker has had to wait longer and work harder than most for a well-earned NRL debut but after starring in his side's 42-10 thumping of local rivals the Roosters the 26 year old said he'd wait another 10 years to replicate the elation he was feeling.
Walker has been in the Melbourne system, where Injuries denied him a possible NRL debut, and spent the past few seasons plying his trade for Easts Tigers in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup and for Rabbitohs feeder side the Bears in the NSW Cup.
Despite winning the player of the year award in the Intrust Super Cup in 2013, Walker could have been forgiven for doubting whether his chance would ever arrive, but having been finally handed his chance in the first game of the second year of his two-year contract at the Rabbitohs (thanks to a one-game suspension to incumbent Luke Keary) he well and truly made the most of it.
He laid on one try to winger Aaron Gray and kicked to perfection in the rousing win, Walker said it had been his father, rather than himself, who was the most nervous, while his two young sons lapped up the occasion and several dozen family trucked in from around the state to witness the belated debut.
"Dad actually came down Tuesday. Me house is pretty loud this morning - I had a couple of nieces and nephews and my two kids there. I was all right, it got my mind off it, all the noise and stuff like that so it was really good," Walker said after the game.
"[Dad] actually said to me this morning, he came in and gave me a cuddle and said 'you're making me very teary-eyed'. That's dad, you know. He's always been this hard man and as the years went on he turned into this big softy," Walker laughed.
The father of two somehow managed to keep his own nerves in check. "I was all right. The nerves weren't even there. I tries to stay as calm as I could and focus on my job which I thought I did," he said.
Walker's father Bernie is a correctional officer back in Casino and played some footy himself in the local leagues and Yamba and has always been proud of what his youngest son has achieved in his career, according to Walker.
"Dad's always said he's always proud of what I've had to achieve in footy and it's taken me this long but I'd wait another 10 years to have that sort of experience, age doesn't worry me. To have that sort of experience out there today I'd wait another 20 years," he said.
He admitted to some "dark times" at the low ebbs of his career but said the feeling of running out in front of thousands of fans at Allianz Stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon made it all worthwhile.
"There were some dark times, I'll be honest, but it makes it all worth it having that sort of feeling out there, running out to 20 or 30 thousand people, 40 of them being my family, it's something I can't describe, going up to them after the game, they were everywhere. I can't put it in words how happy I was seeing my kids," he said.
"It does remind you of why you go through those hard years and it's all worth it. To get out with this bunch of boys – the sun's out and 30 thousand people out there, you can't describe the feeling that you go through when you run out to that sort of crowd."