Sam Walker heads into his first season in the Roosters' senior squad having just played his first game in a year and a half – but says there was a silver lining to this less-than-ideal situation.
You wouldn't know the teenaged son of former Broncos, Eagles and Rabbitohs playmaker Ben Walker hadn't played in 18 months when he came off an extended bench in the trial win over the Raiders on Saturday, scoring a try and setting up another.
"It was a bit of an extended break for me, a year and a half off from playing so I was stoked," Walker told NRL.com.
"It went by really quickly. I sort of blinked my eyes and it was done. I couldn't believe I was back out there again. It was really good to be back out there playing footy again."
Perhaps Walker's success had something to do with just how much time he had off the field last year to work on his skills at training with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the lower-grade competitions.
Episode 1 - Footy returns for 2021
"Last year I was struggling and thinking 'why are we doing this' but now we've got through it I can see how much it's been beneficial to me," he added.
"Not playing on the weekends, your body's not sore and you can get more out of training.
"I think last year, even though I didn't play any footy I think I had my best year of training.
"I learned so much from training and not being out on the field, I got a lot of skills done at training I needed to work on."
Match Highlights: Raiders v Roosters
Former international Cooper Cronk, who helped guide the club to back-to-back premierships in 2018-19, had a big hand in Walker's development, remaining with the club in a coaching role since his retirement.
"He's been enormous for me. Just trying to simplify my game and know my role," Walker said.
"For me it's learning what to do in certain situations.
"Now I've had that first little hit-out I just want to get back out and play some week in, week out consistent footy.
"I'll be training as hard as I can and learning as much as I can from those boys in the halves."
Walker has also had no shortage of guidance from his father, who in addition to being a long-serving NRL playmaker himself has also forged a successful career as a coach in the Intrust Super Cup with Ipswich from 2009 to 2019.
"He'll call me just about every second day so I'll have a good yarn with him and he gives his opinion," Walker said.
Match Highlights: Raiders v Bears
"He helps me a lot with my game. As I've grown up he's been my coach and mentor so he's helped me through.
"A lot of the things I do on the field he's sort of taught me and guided me through that sort of stuff.
"He knows how to coach teams but he also knows how to look after me and knows what I need to hear and tells me what I need to work on. He's been really helpful to me."
What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?
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