Johns calls for Keary State of Origin axe

Scott Bailey and Pamela Whaley
·3-min read

Luke Keary has batted down calls for his axing after NSW legend Andrew Johns said Cody Walker should be given the No.6 jersey for State of Origin II.

The three-time NRL premiership winner was in a solemn mood on Thursday following a shock loss to Queensland in the series opener in Adelaide.

Johns, who has previously called for a running five-eighth to partner Nathan Cleary in the halves, questioned Keary's defence and creativity with the ball.

"Joey's paid to give his opinion and he's entitled to that," Keary said in Sydney on Thursday.

"I've got no control over that, but his opinion would be coming from the right spot. I know how passionate he is about this team.

"I don't think it's personal at all, it's about the team and the state and winning a football game, it's not about individuals playing games."

NSW failed to hold onto their 10-0 half-time lead in Wednesday night's series opener, as Queensland made them pay for missed opportunities in the 18-14 loss.

Walker was given just 19 minutes off the bench after being the form player of the NRL over the last two months, coming on as a third playmaker of sorts.

Cleary and Keary, meanwhile, showed some spark in the halves in the first half playing both sides of the ruck, but neither set up a try or linebreak.

In comparison Walker put two players through holes, including Josh Addo-Carr for a try, in his short time on the field.

"What I saw tonight in the last 15 minutes, 20 minutes I think that Cody Walker has to start," Johns told the Nine Network.

"He has to come in at five-eighth. He provides a lot of creativity. The Blues' left side of the field looked vulnerable on occasions.

"I thought when he came on the field, Cody, he likes to play. He likes to get his hands on the ball and he likes to create.

"Times in that second half obviously the Blues were on the back foot. They had quick play of the ball and the halves didn't stand up and play."

Johns said the decision would allow Ryan Papenhuyzen to come onto the bench at No.14 at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night.

NSW coach Brad Fittler will on Friday name his 21-man team for Game II but has given no hint over whether he will stick with the same halves combination.

"All in all our halves didn't have the greatest kicking game, we didn't utilise the wind in the first half and we couldn't get it into the spot in the second half," he said.

"On closer inspection it's not just halfbacks kicking the ball, there's a lot of people not quite doing their job.

"We can just do that better.

"It's not just the halves, as a team we can do better."