Walker shines in centre return
Dylan Walker is the heir apparent to the right centre position vacated by retired Sea Eagles legend Jamie Lyon and in his first hit-out there of 2017 Walker showed he is up to the task.
Walker looked the most dangerous player on the field in his team's 22-16 trial win over Souths at a sweltering Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday night, showing good pace and awareness to jink across field and set up Jarrad Kennedy for the opening try of the night and a piece of blistering acceleration early in the second half helped him dart through some broken play to score one of his own.
He had a few other dangerous carries and also slotted three goals from four attempts – nailing two from the sideline – in an indication he may also take over from Lyon as the team's first-choice goal kicker.
Speaking after the win, both Walker and his coach Trent Barrett confirmed that centre is his best spot.
"I've been working at centre the whole pre-season, it was just good to get the first hit-out," Walker said.
"It felt a bit more comfortable because when I first come to grade, that's where I started. It was good feeling. I think the boys did a real good job tonight, especially 'Chez' (halfback Daly Cherry-Evans) and 'Greeny' (five-eighth Blake Green), they really controlled the ruck."
Barrett confirmed Walker would be the right centre this season.
"He has trained hard. He is a lot heavier than what he was last year but he has that X-Factor," Barrett said.
"That try he scored, there aren’t too many that can score them. He has worked really hard."
Asked if he was leaning towards Walker as goal-kicker, Barrett joked Walker "thinks he can do anything".
"He is one of our kickers. We have a couple. They still have to work very hard over the next three weeks," Barrett said.
Walker said the goalkicking contenders are all trying to push each other at the moment.
"We obviously want the best goalkicker out there working on it, there's a couple of boys like Api [Koroisau] and Chez doing it also," he said.
Walker confirmed he had put on five or six kilos in the off season but said it hadn't affected his pace.
"I've just gone back to normal weight what I used to play at a couple of years ago," he said.
The other key take-out from the night for Manly fans was the first look at Cherry-Evans and Green as a halves combination.
Green marshalled the left side of the field while Cherry-Evans worked the right. They split the general play kicking fairly evenly, with Green raining down some accurate cross-field bombs and Cherry-Evans' slicing grubbers behind the line causing havoc – including one forced drop-out and one try created.
Cherry-Evans was called on to be not only the dominant half but virtually the lone playmaker at times in 2016 as in injury-hit Manly side struggled for rhythm. The very early signs indicate Green may look to play a similar role on Manly's left edge to what Kieran Foran did when he partnered Cherry-Evans so successfully there.
"We balanced the field up well; they worked well together," Barrett said of his halves.
"It will free Cherry up. Green is like having another coach out there. He is very smart, follows instructions well and frees 'Turbo' (fullback Tom Trbojevic) and Cherry up."
This article first appeared on NRL.com