As a keen student of the game, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson respects how much Novocastrians love their rugby league.
Robinson paid particular attention to this in the three years he spent at the Knights as an assistant coach to Brian Smith in the late 2000s.
Knights fans were fortunate enough to have a front-row seat to the Andrew Johns show for 15 years.
Countless champions preceded Johns, others have tried to follow in his footsteps, and Hunter punters have appreciated and applauded them all.
That is why Robinson believes the league-loving population of Newcastle would have lapped up the phenomenal performance of Roosters wunderkind Sam Walker in their 38-4 demolition of the Knights at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
Though they would have preferred a Knights victory, or at the very least a more competitive showing by the home side, Robinson reckons Newcastle purists would have left the ground satisfied that they had witnessed something special from a potential superstar.
Match Highlights: Knights v Roosters
In just his fifth NRL game, the 18-year-old halfback scored a try, created four more with kicks, threw the last pass for another, and handled twice in the lead-up to another as the Roosters proved too good for the Knights.
The Roosters had only 11 players on the field in the final 90 seconds when Walker kicked audaciously for Josh Morris to complete a hat-trick of tries.
Walker dominated and dazzled the way the likes of Johns, Allan Langer, Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston did before him, and the Newcastle crowd could not help but be impressed.
Walker has the ball on a string for Josh Morris to get a hat-trick!
"We talked about coming up here and, in a respectful way, we love coming up to Newcastle because of the way that people love their footy," Robinson explained after the game.
"We talked about honouring that tonight, about honouring the way that people up here enjoy watching their footy and they know good footy players, and I think they saw that tonight.
"I think they saw some traits that they would like to see in footy players, and he played that game tonight. I think the freedom that he played with is there for everyone to see."
Robinson has already explained this, and will no doubt do so again, but the Roosters identified Walker as a prodigious talent while he was in the Brisbane Broncos junior development system and signed him in mid-2019 to continue his development at Bondi Junction.
After the Roosters lost playmakers Luke Keary and Lachlan Lam to knee injuries against Souths on March 26 – indeed, Keary was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL – Robinson had few other options but to hand Walker the reins as chief playmaker.
Walker floats a ball across to Tupou for the opener
Even Robinson has been surprised how little time the Queensland and Australian junior representative has taken to make his mark.
"It’s really hard to imagine that a guy would have that big an impact in a short period of time, but we knew he was very good, hence why we were really keen to sign him a couple of years ago and get him down as a young kid," Robinson said.
"But it’s a credit to him more so than us – it’s a credit to his mentality about the way that he goes about playing the game. He can take lots of information and still go out there and play, and he’s only just getting started as well.”
Walker told Fox Sports after the game that Robinson and the Roosters’ senior players had put their trust in him, and he has backed himself to repay their faith. Not bound by structure, he has the freedom to play what he sees.
Shattered Robinson describes flattening night
"We’ve got a lot of experienced boys out there and they just make my job really easy. They just let me know what I need to do and I just go out there and try to execute it," Walker told Fox Sports.
"I’m at such a great club at the moment and 'Robbo' allows me to play my game of footy and the boys around me are really encouraging and they all sort of know what I want to do now. I’ve been there for a year-and-a-half now, and they’ve been awesome for me.
"I know if I was stuck on one side of the field playing block plays 24/7, I wouldn’t be able to do what I want to do, so for Robbo and the club to give me the freedom to play my footy is awesome for me."
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