Burgess backs Walker for NSW as halves debate heats up


Fans might recall that it was around this time last year that Walker’s teammate, Damien Cook, was at  long odds to reel in Cameron McInnes for the NSW No.9 jersey.

“With Cody, I think we’re all seeing the same thing,” Burgess told The Sun-Herald.

“He’s a special player. ‘Freddy’ [Brad Fittler] understands what he is doing, and he will make a good decision for NSW.

“I will always support Cody, I’m with him every day and I know what he does and what he brings.

“Cody in any team will be good. He’s taken on more responsibility, he’s really stepped up in terms of leadership, naturally he’s a great communicator, he competes well, and they are all the attributes of a good player.”

Slow start: James Maloney’s form this season has mirrored the slow start of the Panthers. Credit:AAP

Walker is 29 and playing a key role in a Sydney team at the top of the NRL ladder, a big factor Fittler appreciates. Souths will make it six wins from seven starts if they triumph on Friday night out west – the kind of classy start they had back in 2013 when they went within one win of the grand final.

Cleary and Maloney got the job done for the Blues last year but haven’t got going this season behind a struggling Panthers pack.

Keary and Walker would be an interesting dynamic given the former labelled the latter ”disrespectful” after he gave Cooper Cronk a gobful in the opening round.

Burgess had no problems stepping up as the sole captain after Greg Inglis’ retirement and, like coach Wayne Bennett, said he knew the shock move was on the cards at the start of January.

“I knew. We had a couple of chats, but basically all we did was be there for Greg as a friend,” Burgess said.

“We weren’t even there as a sounding board because he was the one who had to make the decision. It was a huge decision.

“I think Greg and his family and the club and the players have all handled it well.

“Of course we will miss him. He’s Greg Inglis. But Kyle Turner has done a good job, we also have Adam Doueihi and Braidon Burns to come back.

“We’ll miss Greg but we can’t hang on to it, it’s happened, we can’t dwell. It’s the NRL. It’s relentless.

“Life without Greg has begun. He’ll still have a presence around the place in some capacity.”

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Unlike Bennett, Burgess had no issues with the flow of the game on Good Friday, even though he clearly became frustrated with the go-slow tactics of persistent Bulldogs halfback Lachlan Lewis.

Lewis claimed Burgess had sledged him. The Englishman is not one to upset.

“Lachlan did a good job. I don’t want to contradict Wayne, but I don’t mind the way the games have been refereed the first six rounds of the comp,” Burgess said.

“We haven’t really spoken about the refs, and that’s a good sign. Less penalties have been good, the more the ball is in play is good and you don’t want it to be a blow-a-thon. There’s a pretty good balance.

“Lachlan had a lot of spirit on Friday night. He competes well, he’s got an exotic personality from what I hear, so I respect that.”

With Cody, I think we’re all seeing the same thing. He’s a special player.

Sam Burgess

Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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