Sam Walker has welcomed the challenge of playing Melbourne in his third NRL match as Roosters teammates revealed how Cronulla had sledged and targeted him in Saturday night's 26-18 triumph.
The 18-year-old halfback, who weighs just 78kg, required an ice pack on his left shoulder in the dressing rooms at the SCG after being singled out by the Sharks in defence and forced to make 15 tackles, while missing five - mostly in the first half.
However, the 18-year-old took control of the match in the last 10 minutes to score a try and lay on two more for wingers Daniel Tupou and Brett Morris as the Roosters snatched an unlikely victory.
He ran through Cronulla halfback Chad Townsend to score his first NRL try in the 73rd minute and Roosters captain James Tedesco said it was a fitting reward for the rookie playmaker.
"Townsend was giving it to him, but cop that Townsend. He showed him how to play footy," Tedesco said. "They were going after him, but it doesn't faze him if you run over him.
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"He's only played two first-grade games, he is only going to get better. But who cares - run at him and target him, he'll still carve you up."
These quotes prompted a reaction from Townsend when the original version of this story was posted on Sunday.
The Cronulla halfback told NRL.com: "I can categorically deny I was 'giving it to him'. The only Roosters player I spoke to on the field during the game was JWH [Jared Waerea-Hargreaves]".
Townsend, on his official Twitter account, later in the night wrote: "this is trash from Tedesco. The only person I spoke to on the field from the Roosters was JWH."
Walker said the Roosters were always confident they could win the match and when five-eighth Drew Hutchinson scored in the 62nd minute to reduce Cronulla’s lead to 18-10 their self-belief grew.
However, the Sharks tested Walker early on and he is expecting to again be singled out by the Storm in Melbourne next Friday night.
“They found me there and I guess at the start of the game I have got to be better,” Walker said. “I was expecting that and we look forward to it.
“They are always going to come at the little fellow on the field and I have got to own that. I just didn’t start off well enough for me but I will improve and get better. I will look at a bit of video and I will definitely improve on that sort of stuff.
“I am really looking forward to next week and the challenge [of playing the Storm]. I think the boys are ready for that and once we improve that first half I think we will be sweet.”
Walker credited Tedesco for providing the direction needed in the last quarter of the match, particularly after losing hooker Freddy Lussick with a broken arm.
“In the second half we all just had that one mind and it made my job easier having Teddy there and a few of the older boys talking through what we needed,” he said.
They are always going to come at the little fellow on the field and I have got to own thatSam Walker
“We made it real tough on ourselves at the start and we finally clicked in those last 10 minutes and we executed what we needed to do.
“I think we all knew our role and we all knew that if we executed what we needed to do we would be able to get the win. Once Drew got that first try I think all the boys lifted and we all felt really confident and comfortable to win the game.
“We are still obviously learning, that is just a foundation game for us again and we will build on that and we will keep getting better. Our combinations clicked there at the end and it made my job easier.”
Tedesco praised Walker's composure to overcome a disappointing start to the game and come up with the match-winning plays when needed,
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"You wouldn't think he is an 18-year-old who has only played two first-grade games. He just plays footy and that's how he was brought up," Tedesco said.
"He doesn't get flustered. He doesn't dwell on things. He just plays what he sees, no matter what the score is."
Walker's try put the Roosters ahead for the first time in the match and he sealed the win with an overhead pass for winger Brett Morris to finish with another double and take his tally to 11 in five matches so far this season.
“It felt good, we needed something there and it felt awesome to score my first NRL try,” Walker said. “It was good to get off the nudie [run], I guess.
“Once that siren went it was a lot of relief and joy, and I was proud of the boys to be able to come back and show some real grit there to win that game.”