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Line break king: Why new Walker deal is huge for Souths' title hopes

Rabbitohs star Cody Walker has been a huge part of the team's attacking prowess since his 2016 debut, transforming the club's left-side attack into a potent weapon despite the comings and goings of some huge names.

Walker's phenomenal attacking input has been married to a remarkable consistency – just one game missed through injury in four years at NRL level.

He was handed a chance in early 2016 with first Luke Keary and then Adam Reynolds unavailable; he was briefly dropped for four weeks once both returned but has since missed just two club games – one of those on Origin duty.

Walker was shuffled between the halves and fullback by coach Michael Maguire in his first two seasons but the departure of Luke Keary and the change of coach to first Anthony Seibold then Wayne Bennett has resulted in Walker becoming a permanent fixture in the cardinal and myrtle No.6 jersey, marshalling that left-side attack for Souths.

All of Cody Walker's tries from 2019

In his four years in the NRL he has seen the brilliant attacking presence of Greg Inglis phase in and out due to injury before retiring at the start of 2019.

Veteran ball-playing edge forward and skilled offloader John Sutton has also moved in and out of that role – though he has been ever-present over the past two years.

Campbell Graham, Braidon Burns, Alex Johnston, Robert Jennings, Hymel Hunt and others have all been key parts of that left side attack at different times.

But the one constant over the past few years has been Walker, and there is one stat that underscores just how potent of an attacking weapon he has been.

By tallying up the line break contributions (line breaks made plus line breaks assisted) for every player in the NRL over the past two regular seasons, Walker comes out well on top with 65 (31 breaks and 34 assists).

A pair of Roosters stars in James Tedesco (58) and Latrell Mitchell (54) are next, with Knights prodigy Kalyn Ponga (50) the only other player to hit 50 in that time. Just seven more players have 40 or more LB contributions.

The numbers get even more stark when you tally the figures over the past four seasons. This shows Walker really hit the ground running from the time of his debut, and contributed strongly regardless of whether he was at fullback or in the halves.

Over the past four years of regular season games, Walker has a stunning 129 line break contributions. Tom Trbojevic (113), Tedesco (105), Mitchell (101) and Cameron Munster (101) are the only other players with over 100 in that period.

Making those numbers even more remarkable is the disruption Souths endured in Walker's first two seasons, in which they missed the finals both years (finishing 12th both years) and scoring fewer points than any of the top eight sides.

The other key take-out from the list is just how dominant Mitchell has been for the Roosters, despite criticism that he does not get involved enough in games.

Every other player in the top 10 for LB contributions wears jersey No.1, 6 or 7. The next non-playmaker on the list below Mitchell is Raiders centre Joey Leilua with 70.

Mitchell's immediate contractual future remains up in the air and while Redfern is an unlikely landing place, it is not impossible.

If Mitchell did make the move to the Roosters' cross-town rivals to effectively replace 2019 retiree Greg Inglis – the player to whom he is so often compared – it potentially would pair the two most dominant left-side attackers in the NRL, which is a tantalising thought for Rabbitohs fans.

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