Wayne Bennett has turned up the heat on Brad Fittler by asking a simple question – why isn’t Cody Walker getting the same loyalty offered to Nathan Cleary?
Wayne Bennett has put the blowtorch right on Brad Fittler ahead of State of Origin II selection, questioning why Cody Walker would not receive the same loyalty as he has shown Nathan Cleary.
With Cleary and Walker set to go head-to-head when Penrith take on South Sydney, Rabbitohs coach Bennett implored Fittler “show a bit of belief” in his under-fire five-eighth.
While Fittler won’t announce his team until Sunday night, all the talk is that Mitchell Pearce is on the verge of a NSW recall to partner Cleary in the halves. It is expected Pearce will play halfback and Cleary five-eighth.
But asked if he believed Walker deserved another shot, Bennett fired: “Before game one they thought Cody was the best five-eighth in NSW. After the game, apparently, they think he can’t get the job done.
“It hasn’t happened yet so I guess we will wait and see. But you know how it works. The great minds are saying Cody probably won’t be there.
“Well, (Fittler) has to show a bit of belief in (Walker).”
Bennett would not buy into the debate about whether Fittler made a massive blue hooking Walker during game one at Suncorp Stadium.
But the game’s most successful coach did point out that when Walker was sent back into the game he almost saved NSW.
“Cody’s best part of the game was when he came back off the interchange (late in the second half),” Bennett said.
“He set up one try and the last big run of the game where NSW almost scored he was the one who created the opportunity. To have that thrilling finish was a lot to do with Cody’s work.”
There is no question Walker struggled early but it didn’t help playing inside Latrell Mitchell who was completely off his game.
On one occasion in the first half Walker created a mini break but for some reason Mitchell just didn’t back himself.
Phil Gould said in Channel 9 commentary if Mitchell was playing for the Roosters he would have swatted the defence aside.
Walker was replaced in the 57th minute for Jack Wighton but subbed back on for Boyd Cordner in the 71st minute and came up with a beautiful try assist soon after.
Bennett was adamant if Fittler puts his confidence in Walker it could be the making of him as an Origin player.
“Sometimes in games like that it takes you 60 or 70 minutes to work your way through,” Bennett explained.
“It happens that quickly. Cody had never played in grand finals, he had never played at that level. So it is a huge gap, and you have to give them confidence.
“He showed that with Cleary. He thought Cleary, who wasn’t in great form (before Origin I) should be the halfback. Well, if you do it for one why wouldn’t you do it for another?”