Fittler expected plenty of spotlight on the new halves but deep down he would not have expected to use up an interchange for Walker as he did when he replaced him in the second half at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night..
“Nathan needs to keep working on being dominant, we spoke about that, and Cody, too, for that matter … he could have got more involved as well,” Fittler said on Thursday.
“There are two weeks to go. We need to play two games. I’m not too sure how many are backing up this weekend. I’m not sure Cody is. But they’ll have at least one game to impress.
“We spoke about that last night, when you’re coming off a loss, you need to go back and play good.
“You can’t dawdle back into the team, you have to come back confident.
“I’ve always liked Nathan for his work ethic. Obviously Cody with the combinations at Souths and his form has been outstanding.
“[But] there were a few opportunities there last night I thought they both missed. Overall they have another couple of games to impress.
“There were times I thought we looked stronger and in total control but we never nailed those moments. There were periods in the first half where we didn’t take advantage of a lot of the good stuff our players were doing.”
Cleary said he could have been more dominant and only realised Walker was off the field once Jack Wighton was plonked into the halves, where he plays at Canberra but spent no time preparing for the Blues.
“I was all right … there’s room for improvement. There were different stages in the game I could have been more dominant. I tried my hardest,” Cleary said.
“I didn’t know about [Walker being off] for a while. I was looking for him and he wasn’t out there. I thought he was good at the back end [when he returned].
“I think we can definitely build on what we did tonight. It was a stepping stone.
“We were split either side of the field and ‘Cooky’ [Damien Cook] and ‘Teddy’ [James Tedesco] could run through the middle. There were different stages in the game we could have linked up more.”
Walker said he would have loved to spend the 80 minutes out in the middle but was happy to do whatever Fittler wanted.
“I’m going to be doing everything I can to play my best footy for the Rabbitohs and hopefully be there in game two,” Walker said.
“I’m not going to sit here and sulk. I’m old enough now to get on with my job with whatever the coaches want and need.
“I thought I did some good things. I feel like there were a couple of opportunities in defence where we let them off the hook with quick play-the-balls and missing our kick chase.
“Missing [Cameron] Munster in the first half when he went through, they are massive plays in the game. I need to nail them. There are so many areas in my game where I need to improve. I’ll look at them in the next couple of days.”
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.