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For & Against: Sam Walker's final play was a good thing

Brilliant game management or questionable sportsmanship? Doing whatever it takes to win or going against the spirit of the game?

Roosters rookie Sam Walker's decision to run back towards his own end of the ground in the dying seconds of the clash against the Bulldogs to kill the clock sparked debate and even grabbed the attention of the NRL's head of football Graham Annesley.

"What Sam Walker did was certainly unusual, but it did not breach any rules," Annesley said on Monday.

"I wouldn't regard it as a significant problem in our game and it is certainly not a regular occurrence. The set of circumstances which allowed that to take place would rarely happen."

For & Against - Sam Walker's final play was a good thing

For - senior journalist Martin Lenehan

One thing you can say for certain about 19-year-old Sam Walker's 12 games in the NRL is that they been full of highlight-reel moments.

From glorious cut-out passes to set up his wingers to deft kicks and defence befitting a man 10 years older and 20 kilos heavier, the rookie Rooster has burst onto the scene in style.

Walker has been a breath of fresh air for fans tired of seeing playmakers simply hoist a bomb into the sky at the end of a set and hope for a mistake from the fullback or winger.

Five hit-ups and a kick may be good for completion rates but it won't threaten too many defences and it won't thrill too many old-school playmakers who were fond of a chip-and-chase or a sneaky dart on the last.​

Why Sam Walker's final play was smart, not arrogant

He may not have thrown a backflip into his armory just yet but he's certainly more Mundine than mundane and for that he should be applauded.

Last Saturday against the Bulldogs, most people expected Walker to take a shot for field goal or boot the ball into touch when it came his way with 21 seconds to play and the Roosters up by six.

Had he missed the field goal he would have handed the Bulldogs a chance to conjure a Hail Mary play and force golden point.

Even a kick into touch would have given Trent Barrett's men the chance to pack a scrum and possibly have one or two plays to chase a miracle.

Not too many people saw option three coming - Walker running back towards his own tryline and eventually taking the ball over the sideline as the siren sounded, thus denying Canterbury possession and any shot at a late try.

Up in the coach's box, Trent Robinson seemed bemused, Luke Keary amused and Boyd Cordner ... well, let's just say Sam was probably lucky the former skipper wasn't out on the paddock to share his thoughts.

But that's the beauty of the way Sam Walker plays. He's instinctive. He's not a robot, and in the heat of the battle with 21 seconds to play, that's the method he decided to use to run down the clock and ensure his team banked a hard-fought two competition points.

As Graham Annesley pointed out, it's not a scenario we're going to see come up all that often, but when it does, some playmakers will try and nail a one-pointer and others will grubber the ball into touch ... and the teen sensation from Bondi might just scoot off in the opposite direction and play 'keepings off' until the siren sounds again.

Off the cuff and on the highlight reel, that's what makes Sam Walker so special.

Sam Walker and the most unorthodox end to a game we have seen for a while

Against - senior journalist Paul Zalunardo

Modern-day rugby league has never been a game of retreating. It is one-way, direct and confrontational. 

While going backwards is a key strategy in games such as soccer and Australian rules football, apart from passing the ball it’s just isn’t rugby league’s go. 

It was for one play on Saturday night. 

Firstly, let’s be clear. Sam Walker did nothing wrong in winding down the clock by running backward and eventually into touch on the final play of his team’s six-point win over the Bulldogs. 

He’s not the first person to resort to such a tactic and unless the rules are changed, he won’t be the last. 

He was just a player using the rules to his favour to turn a likely win into a certain one. 

While his antics lent themselves rather nicely to the music from The Benny Hill Show, they have raised a serious point. 

Do we want such tactics in the game and if so, is it just open slather? 

Around the grounds: Clubs react to ups and downs of relocation

If tactics such as the one Walker chose to use are extrapolated out, teams could use up close to two minutes in one set of six at the end of a match. 

With the defence needing to retreat the 10m before a play the ball, the "attacking" team could use their more nimble players to retreat, but maybe by only 20m each tackle while also traversing sideways. 

By the time the player dances around a little, is tackled and then gets to his feet (slowly of course), the seconds keep on vanishing. Doing that four times in a row is sure to chew up the clock. 

Then for the coup de grace of moving around in your own in goal area before running the ball dead at the last second. 

Then, of course, we have the time taken to get the ball back into play. Hardly entertaining stuff. 

As well as running down the last 90 seconds of the match, such a ploy could even work with two or three minutes left in a match where a team more than six points ahead. It could take up enough time so that the chasing team simply doesn’t have long enough score more than one try. 

Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Roosters

Yes, such play would require a concerted effort from a team but if it’s proven it can work, you’re sure to see it on the regular. 

Back to Saturday night. Instead of running backwards, Walker could have used the field position and his skills to force line drop out on the Bulldogs or kick the ball into touch. How about a field goal? All of those plays would have just about ended the game and left us with nothing to talk about. 

In plays such as the one Walker employed, the competitive nature of all other plays was eliminated. 

It isn’t what most fans want. Rugby league has never been a game of intentionally going backwards. The AFL and its penchant for late-game time-wasting can keep that. 

If this rare occurrence becomes a regular event, the rule-makers may take a more serious look at it. 

Until then, the best way for players to make sure an opposition doesn’t do this is to be ahead on the scoreboard and do it yourself. 

Should Sam Walker's last-tackle play be permitted?

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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.


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