Cody Walker’s best game of the year could amount to nothing in his battle to keep his NSW No.6 jersey after a high shot dimmed his stardom in South Sydney’s 38-20 win over Parramatta.
Walker’s left edge ran riot in the Rabbitohs’ big win, as they bounced back from last week’s 44-point flogging from Penrith to claim their biggest scalp of the season.
But it came on a horror night for State of Origin selectors, with Cameron Murray on report for one crusher tackle and Nathan Brown two.
Walker was also pinged for a high tackle on Jake Arthur, with previous offences meaning any charge will result in a ban and not a fine.
Likely Queensland hooker Reed Mahoney was also placed on report for dangerous contact, as was NSW hopeful Ryan Matterson.
But behaviour aside, Souths had every reason to be smiling in Indigenous round.
Winger Alex Johnston and his inside man Dane Gagai both bagged hat-tricks on the left, while Walker had a hand in five of Souths’ seven tries.
Damien Cook also answered his critics, scoring the Rabbitohs’ first untouched from a scrum with his best game for weeks.
After seemingly falling behind Jarome Luai and Jack Wighton in the battle for the NSW No.6 jersey, Walker will be hoping his statement did not come too late and was not in vain.
Moved to fullback for four weeks with Latrell Mitchell suspended, he lacked the same impact he normally has in the front line.
But his influence couldn’t be questioned on Saturday night at Stadium Australia, just 24 hours out from Brad Fittler naming his NSW squad.
It was Walker and the left’s variety in attack that left the Eels in tatters as Souths broke the line a whopping 13 times.
One of Johnston’s tries came when Walker went to the line and hit Mitchell on the chest for a netball-style pass for the winger, another was via a shorter ball to Mitchell and third had Gagai as the intermediary.
Gagai’s first also came when Walker this time hit him with a cut-out ball on that edge, while the five-eighth also put him over from a scrum when he picked out a gaping hole.
“I don’t think (NSW selectors) needed any reminding,” Souths coach Wayne Bennett said.
“I think anybody who watches him play week in and week out knows how good he is.
“When the outside backs are playing like they’re playing and forwards do what their doing Adam and Cody come into their own.”
The assault came even after Parramatta switched Waqa Blake to the other edge after he was exposed by Manly’s left edge last week.
“It was like touch footy, he was too quick at times. They were just getting there way too easy,” Eels coach Brad Arthur said.
“I just thought it hadn’t been working between Fergo and Waqa at times, but we’ve got some work to do there don’t we?”
The Eels were never really in the contest, with Clint Gutherson dropping the ball on their first touch and never drawing level again after Cook scored from the scrum.
Jake Arthur provided the highlight with a chip kick for Gutherson to score later and the five-eighth also got one of his own after the break.