Combustible Souths half Cody Walker has been warned to cool his jets or risk taking the Rabbitohs’ season down in flames with him.
Souths have reached a potential breaking point of their NRL season after a sluggish start that has reaped just four wins from nine starts, including losing twice to the Brisbane Broncos.
The Rabbitohs’ chances of turning around their form were dealt a heavy blow on Tuesday with news that Cameron Murray will likely miss much of the rest of the season with a neck injury.
Souths’ most recent loss saw former Souths halfback and premiership winner Adam Reynolds take his old club to school with a masterclass performance.
Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker squared off against each other for the first time after being long-term teammates at the Rabbitohs
By contrast, Walker was unable to ignite his side and started a flare-up with Broncos half Billy Walters in the opening stages of the contest.
Fox’s Paul Kent said it was ‘time to get worried’ for Souths fans and singled Walker out for a bake for his attitude on the field.
‘Cody Walker is clearly frustrated and he’s clearly not playing well and he seems to be the barometer for the mood of the team,’ he said on NRL 360.
‘He started angrily the other night with Billy Walters, he seemed to look for a reaction … then he took it into his own hands and had a little bit of a scuffle.
‘The fact is Cody at some point has got to grow up he’s got to realise he is of value to the team beyond just what he does with the ball in his hands.
‘He’s got to start respecting his teammates.’
Graham is wrapped up in a tackle by Brisbane Broncos five-eighth Tyson Gamble as Walker looks on
Souths winger Campbell Graham said the players had no issue with Walker’s anger management, saying he was just passionate about the game.
‘He’s always angry, yeah. I think he’s just passionate about footy,’ he said.
‘It’s nothing personal amongst the players.
‘Sometimes it might cost a penalty but I actually really like that aspect of his game.
‘Showing how much passion he’s got for his team and where he wants us to get to.’
However The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield said that the Rabbitohs were missing Wayne Bennett and his ability to manage Walker.’
‘In my view, he’s missing Wayne Bennett more than Adam Reynolds,’ he told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.
“He seems to be dreadfully out of sorts, he seems to be angry, you never seem to see him smile anymore, he’s very easily niggled on a football field.’
Walker was also investigated for a late night incident outside of a Terrigal Hotel following Souths win over Manly.
It is understood Walker was wrestling with family members and the investigation has since been dropped by NSW Police, although the NRL Integrity Unit may still impose a penalty on the Bunnies half.
Cameron Murray could be set for a long stint out of the game after suffering a neck injury against the Broncos that could include nerve and disc damage
The calls for Walker to step up come as the Rabbitohs season reaches a crossroads. They have eminently winnable matches against the Warriors, Raiders, Wests and Titans coming up, but on current form nothing is certain.
The Bunnies are also in the midst of an injury crisis with New South Wales lock Murray set to miss the majority of the season.
He was sent for scans this week on a a neck and shoulder injury that was initially expected to see him sidelined for four weeks.
However there are now fears that Murray might have nerve and/or disc damage that can be difficult to rehabilitate and he could be out for as long as four months.
That compounds the loss of star fullback Latrell Mitchell who has travelled to the United States for treatment on a troublesome hamstring injury that has kept him out of NRL action since April 9. He is not due back until round 14 at the earliest.
Jacob Host (shoulder, round 12), Zane Bijorac (knee, round 16), Michael Chee Kam (back, round 21), Jed Cartwright (back, indefinite) and Mark Nicholls (ankle, indefinite) are also in the injury ward at present.
However in a boost for the Rabbitohs prop Thomas Burgess might be available for selection this week after suffering a back injury.