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Bennett hits back at 'immature' Roosters over Walker stoush

Wayne Bennett has come out swinging in defence of Cody Walker, labelling the Roosters 'immature' in their criticism of the South Sydney five-eighth's gamesmanship.

Walker was at the centre of a late blow-up in the 26-16 win over their arch-rivals last Friday, clashing with Cooper Cronk over allegedly calling ex-Souths teammate Angus Crichton a "traitor".

Tricolours five-eighth and Walker's own cardinal and myrtle predecessor Luke Keary described his on-field comments as "disrespectful" and declared "if he wants to go around doing that, it should come back to him".

Bennett hit back on Thursday, stirring the pot yet again in the game's oldest rivalry.

"I thought Cody's game was tremendous," Bennett said.

"I don't know what all the noise was about. What I know sledging to be, that wasn't sledging.

"It wasn't disrespectful, it was two guys having a go at each other. Simple as that."

Bennett: We're not going to get consistency

Asked why he thought the Roosters had reacted as strongly as they did both on the paddock and the next day, Bennett said: "It's probably the immaturity we have in the game today amongst certain players.

"It's a tough game we play. Some things will be said out there, they'll be said in the future, they've been said in the past.

"The man's psyche is get off the field, forget about it, move on with life. Some of the boys just don't grow up early enough anymore."

Walker and halves partner Adam Reynolds will again be the focus in Thursday's clash with the Dragons after a promising first-round showing under Bennett.

Across the way St George Illawarra are trying to juggle Gareth Widdop's move to fullback to accommodate Corey Norman's off-season arrival, while also keeping livewire Matt Dufty on the bench in a five-man playmaking puzzle.

It was Bennett who first shifted Widdop to fullback during England's 2017 World Cup campaign, but the English coach said he would look to keep the Dragons skipper in the halves at international level.

"He's unpredictable, a wonderful player. I've got a lot of time for him," Bennett said.

"I enjoyed coaching [him] in the English team. You just don't know what he's going to do next. because he doesn't know himself. Makes it hard for you to work out."

However Paul McGregor manoeuvres his spine, Bennett called for him to back his decision as the combination between Widdop, Norman and Ben Hunt will come under increasing scrutiny throughout 2019.

"It is difficult. You've got to have a clear picture in your own mind about who you think's the best for that position," Bennett said.

Boo boys don't bother Crichton

"You've got to ride with it. Every week someone else will have a different opinion about it but your opinion is the one that matters most and you've got to have the confidence in yourself to make it work.

"[Widdop] can play fullback and that's why I put him there, because I knew he could handle it.

"That's what the coach of St George [Illawarra] wants, how he sees it all working for him and the team."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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