Maroon's tip guides Walker through dark times
One of the Maroons players who will be attempting to consign Blues utility Dylan Walker to a 0-2 start to his Origin career is inadvertently responsible for the piece of advice Walker clung to when the knockers started piling in on him after his Origin I cameo.
Speaking from Blues camp in Coffs Harbour, Walker revealed it was some words of comfort from Maroons centre Greg Inglis back when they were Rabbitohs teammates that has helped him brush off the firestorm of criticism over the past fortnight.
While it would be unfair to pin the team's loss on a debutant not sparking a match-winning play in his nine minutes on the field, it hasn't stopped the knives being sharpened for the Manly playmaker.
Walker, to his credit, put it all aside to produce his best 40 minutes of the year on Sunday, despite the fact it wasn't enough for his team to hold on to a win against Penrith.
"It's just playing footy, I just wanted to back myself," Walker said of how he dealt with the fallout of the 6-4 loss.
"Back in 2014 I was backing myself. Greg Inglis was the one that told me that. He said just back your ability 100 per cent.
"He said 'if I was you I would' so I've sort of gone back to that and just enjoyed my footy and played good footy for my club, even though we're not going too well at the moment."
Despite Manly's heartbreaking loss on Sunday, Walker said it was good to be enjoying his footy – and is desperately hoping for more game time next Wednesday night.
"We haven't talked about it too much; we just came into camp today and I'm hoping I get more game time to get more of a feel out there," he said.
"It's surprising, you chew up a lot of juice sitting on the bench waiting for such a long time, using energy but I'm excited to be back in camp and I just really want to do the best for the boys.
"It's a bit of an anxious feeling [sitting on the bench], you've just got to wait but 'Loz' [coach Laurie Daley] has been in that arena, he knows what he's doing. I have complete trust in him and I'm grateful he's picked me again."
Walker was philosophical when asked how he managed to brush off the criticism – even praising the fans who bagged him for showing their passion for their state.
"They can say what they want. They're very passionate about the state around Origin time so you can't really blame them for it," he said.
"In saying that I'm just doing my best for the team and at the end of the day I'm really grateful for what I have and what I've achieved. People can say what they want but I'm just not going to listen to them.
"There's a couple of people that asked why I didn't get a bit more game time but it's up to the coaching staff, I don't really buy into it too much, I just want to do my best for the team."
He said the message from Daley in the aftermath had been to just keep his head up.
"He was keen to keep the same 17 and we had a lot of time down their end to have opportunities and missed a couple but I'm grateful that he stayed loyal to the same 17 and going into Game Two I'm hoping just to get a bit more game time."