A walk in the park: Super Sam shows Roosters what they’ve been missing in 60-point Anzac smash up


It might have been that simple all along.

As much as the structures, coaching and roster come under pressure at the Roosters, the solution to their issues might well just be keeping Sam Walker on the field and building around him.

The halfback, who was dropped last year, then injured, then concussed three weeks ago, was the clear star this crushing 60-18 Anzac Day win over the Dragons, picking up the man of the match by a distance courtesy of a mentality that only grows with the stage.

The Chooks can often be overstructured, but Walker is a player without it when he is in this mood. His lack of fear has often been remarked upon, but often in reference to his size.

That misses the point. It’s his lack of fear of failure that remains his biggest strength: the stats clearly demonstrate that those who make the most mistakes in rugby league are the most productive creatively, and Walker retains no qualms about trying, failing and trying again.

From the very first tackle, Moses Suli was knocked cold by Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, the Dragons were up against it.

The hit was unintentional, but entirely avoidable. Head-on-head collisions such as this cause the most concussions, but little is done about them either by changing kick-offs, a temporary measure, or by changing tackle heights, as Super League has, drastically reducing ‘accidents’ in the process.

It was, in many ways, a perfect storm.

The Roosters came to play in attack in a way that they haven’t for several weeks, aided by Walker’s return from concussion, but the Dragons were backing up on several tough weeks and no match.

Shane Flanagan has wrung every drop of effort to get three wins in the last four games, and something had to give. That happened today, in a big way.

Walker unlocks the Roosters’ right edge

When the Chooks got even a sniff of good ball, they didn’t hesitate to go to their right.

They’ve had some turmoil with it of late: Dom Young was out suspended at the far end of it and Walker missing at the start, not to mention Joey Manu moved in the middle as he compensated elsewhere.

Against the Bunnies, it had shown glimpses of how good it could be: Young stretches the line so well that everyone defending has to fan out, creating gaps in between that Manu, James Tedesco and, perhaps most of all, Walker can exploit.

The half is so central to everything that Robinson wants in attack, because he’s the most chaotic player they have.

Nobody backs himself more, nobody tries more and nobody has the vision.

Manu wins the race and the Roosters score their third ????‍

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The Manu try was a perfect example, with the halfback spotting Tyrell Sloan in the ruck and chipping for his centre, but it was just one of several.

He’d already done it once, and would do it again five minutes later, then a third time to win a penalty try.

When there was space, Walker was clearly going for it – and even in defence, where he stopped a Sloan break, copped a knee to the gob and then shut down Flanagan on the last tackle.

The personnel available on the right for the Roosters should make it among the best in the comp. When it works like today, that’s easy for anyone to see.

There’s caveats everywhere, however.

How often they’re all on the field has to be the biggest, and the hope has to be that a change of luck is coming there.

The standard of opposition, too, factors in. We saw them look great against South Sydney, who have been dreadful, and a Dragons side today that lost Suli first tackle, then had Tom Eisenhuth out of position.

Dom Young gets it down after a big stretch ????

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Time catches up with St George Illawarra

In hindsight, this might have been in the post for the Dragons.

This was their third game in 11 days, having put in mammoth shifts to defeat the Tigers, then the Warriors off a short turnaround.

On fatigue level, that is always going to be a problem, especially against a Roosters side that had played three consecutive Thursdays and were able to plan accordingly.

Then they lost Suli first tackle, forcing a major reshuffle and a man down on the bench for the entire match.

Structurally, this can’t work for St George Illawarra at the moment.

Their style is all huff and puff, and their effort levels have been largely superb under Flanagan.

“One of the great ANZAC Day tries”

Sensational from the Dragons ????

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The first try was testament to that, with so many players in the frame supporting a break that they were able to go through multiple sets of hands, converting a break on the right into one of the tries of the season.

But as possession ebbed away, as the Roosters’ attack got going, the ruck disintegrated and, from that, the edges were ruthlessly targeted.

Walker was exceptional in picking them apart, but he got time to as line speed dropped and ruck speed increased.

Fatigue is always your worst enemy in this game. By halfway through the first half, that was clear to see.

Flanagan has been pretty open that he isn’t targeting wins all the time this year, which is smart, but he mightn’t have budgeted for losses of this scale.

His side met a Roosters team in a mood, but also wilted badly and let the game run away from them.

It’s a huge task to pick them up to go again. Next week, against a rampant Sharks, just became a massive ask.

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