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Almost a Bronco: Bennett's always been big fan of Walker

Wayne Bennett tried hard to get Cody Walker to the Broncos three years ago, now he is just glad he stayed at the Rabbitohs leading into Friday's grudge match at ANZ Stadium.

Walker will line up for Souths against Bennett’s former club as a genuine match winner and a player his coach says has now "made it" after a long and winding journey to the top.

In 2017 the Broncos knew they were losing Ben Hunt to the Dragons and Walker had played all 24 games in the season and shone in a struggling Rabbitohs side.

On top of that he had played fullback, five-eighth and halfback and was about to come off contract.

"We worked pretty hard to get him. [Broncos recruitment chief] Peter Nolan had seen him play and was keen and I had seen him play a few times as well, and we liked him," Bennett told NRL.com.

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"He was on the market and his manager had been in touch with us. We made him a good offer but Souths came back to him and made him a better offer, so he stayed.

"I have always liked his skill level and a someone who could play a few different positions."

Walker signed a new two-year extension with the Rabbitohs in early 2018 and late last year inked a new deal which will keep him at the club until the end of 2022

Bennett has coached some of the best halves in the business with Allan Langer and Darren Lockyer stepping up when the game was on the line.

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Last week Walker did the same when the Rabbitohs were down 16-0 against the Dragons to inspire a 32-24 win.

"It is huge when a player can do that. That is what you want in your team," Bennett said.

"I thought Tom Burgess started it with some of his runs and then Cody jumped on the back of that and by half-time we were back in the game.

"Cody has got a little bit more confidence that he can deliver on that now and the players trust him, I can tell you."

A late bloomer, Walker didn’t play in the Telstra Premiership until he was 26.

"I’ve had plenty of those," Bennett said.

"He was a late developer and was around a long time at the Storm, then Easts in Brisbane before going to South Sydney.

"He had a bit of a background but he’s got there and now played over 100 games of first grade.

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"He’d attended Palm Beach Currumbin [High] so I always knew he was a talented guy. He just needed to mature after he had a few instances in his life where he got into trouble.

"You have two choices. You either learn from it or you don’t, and if you don’t your career is over.

"He’s learned from it and built a good career and is now a very valued player here, one of our best. It has been quite a journey for him, but he’s made it."

Walker grew up idolising Preston Campbell, David Peachey and before that Steve Renouf.

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Renouf has been a huge fan of Walker’s and said he was not surprised Bennett enjoyed coaching him.

"Wayne is good with players like Cody because he has his trust. Wayne will be saying to Cody 'you have got your natural game and that’s how I want you to play'," Renouf told NRL.com.

"Cody will play on instinct and as a five-eighth he needs to play with some structure but Wayne will encourage him to run the ball and play what is in front of him.

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"I see the similarities between my time under Wayne at Brisbane and Cody now because as a coach Wayne appreciates natural ability and is good at getting that out of a player."

South Sydney's spine is one of their strengths and if Adam Reynolds is fit to play against Brisbane, they will have an all-representative quartet of Latrell Mitchell, Walker, Reynolds and Damien Cook on the park.

"We lost Cody for two weeks with suspension and Latrell for two so in our 12 games there have been four where one of them has been missing," Bennett said.

"We hope to get better and we think we are. Latrell is very good with his communication so we are heading in the right track with those guys.

"We just need to get through with a few injuries so we can finish with the team we started with."