I thought my career was over: Walker
Sea Eagles star Dylan Walker thought his career was over when he broke his fibula and dislocated his right ankle during the Prime Minister's 48-8 win over Papua New Guinea on Saturday.
The star centre had made a break early in the second half but was tackled awkwardly with one of the Kumuls landing heavily on his ankle.
The game was stopped for several minutes as he was stretchered from the field in obvious discomfort, and it didn't take long for the medical staff to deliver the devastating news.
It was a cruel blow for the gifted Sea Eagle who was a genuine chance of returning to the Kangaroos side for the first time since 2014 for Australia's World Cup campaign.
Instead of being bitter about the injury, Walker is aiming for a Round 1 return and is keen to tackle the rehab process head-on in a bid to come back better than ever before.
Speaking to NRL.com at the Dally M Awards, Walker relived the moment he thought his young yet glittering career was over.
"I got tackled from behind and I think someone just landed on my ankle and it just snapped," he said.
"I heard it and I could feel it; it just went all numb. I had a quick look at it and it was facing the other way so I knew straight away that I was in a bit of trouble.
"I was thinking the worst at the time and thought my career might have been over. Thankfully it wasn't that bad and I've got some plates and screws in there now so it's going to be a long five months.
"I saw the surgeon three days ago and he was confident that he could get me back. That gave me a lot of confidence and my thoughts went straight to rehab and what I could do to get right for next year."
Given the nature of the injury, the last thing Walker needed was to be crammed onto a flight with little leg room. Thankfully, it wasn't an issue.
"They looked after me and bumped me up to Business Class so it wasn't all bad," he said.
"That was probably the upside to come out of the trip and I was grateful that they could have looked after me."
Agony and ecstasy are rarely too far apart in rugby league, and despite the setback, there was reason to celebrate for Walker who was named the 2017 Dally M Centre of the Year on Wednesday night; the perfect 23rd birthday present.
He might have hobbled onto the stage on crutches but that doesn't do justice to what he achieved in 2017.
Walker had a standout season for the Sea Eagles with 13 tries, 10 try assists, 12 line breaks and 80 tackle breaks to go with a couple of match-winning plays against the Roosters and Raiders.
His ability to get under the skin of opponents was only bettered by his speed and flashy footwork, and had he still been fit Walker would have been a genuine chance of working his way into Mal Meninga's World Cup squad.
"Mal spoke to everyone and said that if we were in the PM's XIII side then we were a good chance of playing in the World Cup," he said.
"I took that into consideration so I wanted to play as well as I could over there and be as professional in camp as possible to impress the coach. I believe I did all those things but the injury kind of put an end to that.
"He's got a lot of players to choose from – Tom Trbojevic was outstanding in that game – and there are a few guys still playing this weekend who are in contention so Mal has a big headache."