Pressure was already mounting on Rabbitohs playmaker Cody Walker after a disappointing performance in South Sydney’s win on the weekend.
But with fullback Latrell Mitchell now staring at eight weeks on the sideline, there is even more of a need for the underperforming five-eighth to stand up.
But The Daily Telegraph’s Paul Kent says former coach Wayne Bennett would have been the best man to help get Walker out of his current slump.
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Walker has not had any issues getting his hands on the ball, averaging 46 possessions a game but the bigger problem is the lack of impact he is having with those touches.
The 32-year-old did not have a try assist or linebreak assist against the Dragons and is yet to record a single assist all season.
This is after an incredible campaign last year, when he led the NRL in try assists last season and also broke the record for linebreak assists.
The scaling back of the six-again rule and disruption in South Sydney’s spine cannot be ignored when assessing Walker’s form, while a few niggling injuries could also be to blame.
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“You know that first game against the Broncos, he had that bad thigh and got heavily strapped up,” Phil Rothfield said on Fox League’s ‘NRL 360’ on Tuesday night.
James Hooper, meanwhile, added that Walker had a quad injury that saw him considered “touch-and-go” for South Sydney’s game with Melbourne earlier this season.
At this stage Walker is obviously fit enough to play but what remains a mystery is how South Sydney get the most out of its electric five-eighth.
“All I do know [is that] without Reynolds [and] without Gagai and now without Latrell, they need his leadership,” Rothfield said.
Walker has previously spoken about the impact Bennett had on his career at South Sydney as well as his time in the Origin arena.
Bennett had a great knack for understanding what makes his players tick but the problem for Souths is he is now over 900 kilometres away with the Dolphins.
While current Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou spent a number of years working under Bennett, Kent questioned whether he can replicate the magic of the supercoach.
“Bennett managed Cody to the point of view that he gave him a cuddle all the time, he gave him one when he needed it,” Kent said.
“That is the concern with the changes of coaches, whether they can now tune into his psyche and get to him at those points. Cody’s got a blow-up in him, even at training, Bennett was great at walking to him in the dressing room and getting him back out onto the field.
“Now, because he is volatile that way, that is carrying into his football. You’ve go to learn to get around him and get his energy up.”
Former NRL playmaker Braith Anasta though was not overly worried for Walker, explaining from experience that it can only take one breakout performance to get going again.
“With Cody and halves too, you can play yourself out of form but just as quickly you can play yourself back into it,” he said.
“The next couple of weeks are very important.”