Walker & Luai set to collide one more time
CODY Walker is in the form of his life. So good, he has South Sydney on the verge of their first grand final appearance since that famous day in 2014. So good, he is pushing Luke Keary to wear the NSW No 6 jersey next month when the State of Origin series kicks off. So good, he is the man Penrith need to stop on Saturday night if they are to finish their all-conquering season with an appearance in a grand final.
It could have been all so different had Souths and their former head of football Shane Richardson been successful a few years ago in a poaching raid designed to convince Panthers five-eighth Jarome Luai to trade in Sydney’s golden west for the unpretentious surrounds of Redfern Oval.
Richardson tried over and over again to convince Luai to make the move to the Rabbitohs. So too did their current football manager Mark Ellison. They hammered Luai’s manager Darryl Mather on the phone over the space of a couple of years. It was relentless. They were convinced Luai was the man to eventually fill a spot in the Rabbitohs halves. But Luai was a Penrith boy and the Panthers’ former head of football Phil Gould had no desire to let Luai go. So Souths eventually gave up and placed their faith in Walker.
It hasn’t worked out too badly for either party. Luai has been a star this year for the Panthers while Walker has pieced together one of the best months of football seen from a player in recent years.
On Saturday, their worlds collide yet again and for the winner, a grand final appearance awaits.
“I’m not into personal battles, it’s just about us going out there and doing the job,” Walker said. “If we focus on one individual, the other side of the field will hurt you. We understand that they’ve got strike all over the park, Jarome Luai is in career-best form. He’s had a fantastic year and you’ve also got Stephen Crichton on that leftedge, on the other side (Liam) Martin and Brent Naden and Nathan Cleary. If you focus on one particular area, you miss out on stopping the other guys.”