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Rookie sensation Sam Walker's pure love for the game and fearlessness in big moments is inspirational for veteran Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

The 19-year-old has had a whirlwind breakout season, providing highlight reels full of attacking brilliance while also subjecting his not even 80kg frame to enormous punishment at the hands of hulking opposition back-rowers.

Coach Trent Robinson has decided the best balance, for now at least, to harness Walker's gifts without wearing him into the ground is to start him from the bench and inject him as needed.

The move paid big dividends in a 25-24 elimination final win over the Titans last Saturday, with Walker left on the bench for 71 minutes but producing two match-winning moments in his short time on field.

First Walker produced a field goal to break the deadlock, then made a crucial try-saving tackle in a frantic final minute as the Titans threatened to steal the win.

"It's so amazing the way he can just adapt," Waerea-Hargreaves said.

"The week before against the Raiders he came on as fullback. I watched a young 19-year-old – usually when you say to someone of that age you're playing fullback and he's never trained there for us ever, I watched his reaction and he was excited.

"Obviously we were winning the game but to see a halfback, a guy that knows he's going on at halfback, it's like when you say to him 'you're going to play hooker', he gets excited about it.

Every try from finals week one

"He looked really excited, he knew he was going to do a couple of kick returns. I saw the look on his face and I was like 'this kid is just, he's not scared or timid or afraid to go at it'."

That excitement and fearlessness carried over into Walker's finals debut on Saturday.

"He came on knowing he had a job to do on the weekend and he clearly demanded the ball," Waerea-Hargreaves said.

"He set up in the right position off the play-the-ball then got us two front-rowers to stand in front to block. The confidence in such a young kid just seems to amaze me all the time."

The controversial field goal play has since been cleared by NRL head of football elite competitions Graham Annesley, with the positioning of Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley not deemed to be an illegal wall.

It wasn't just the field goal but the crucial tackle on a runaway Phil Sami – backing up from having missed Beau Fermor for the original line break earlier in the same play – that impressed JWH.

"It's very impressive just how calm he is, then to make that tackle, they're big plays at that age and it's a big credit to him," he added.

"It's nice to have somebody like that that can cover many positions but also that can do it in a calm sort of way as well. He's going well but we know he's got a lot of work to be done as well."

Waerea-Hargreaves said his own body was feeling fresh after a couple of weeks off to rest a few minor injuries, prompted by a nasty moment when he was folded up awkwardly against the Dragons in round 23.

Relive the final crazy minute of Roosters v Titans

"The body's feeling pretty good," he said.

"I had a few weeks off just to get over a few injuries. I had about four or five ongoing little niggles.

"After the 'scorpion pretzel' it was good to have a week or two off!

"I was ready for the Raiders game but the coach made a call there. It was nice to get out there last weekend in some tough conditions in a big game against the Titans.

"They played really really well, they played really physical and took it to us. It was just good to hang in there, score a couple of good tries. A couple of individuals held us really strong there."

 

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