Phil Gould sinks boot into Sam Walker amid bombshell axing

The NRL guru can't understand why it's taken the Roosters so long to make the call.

Phil Gould during broadcast and Sam Walker during a game.
Sam Walker's (pictured right) shock axing from the Roosters' line-up hasn't surprised Phil Gould (pictured left) amid the club's indifferent form. (Getty Images)

The NRL world has reacted with surprise at Sam Walker's shock axing after the Roosters' recent form and Phil Gould has questioned why the decision hadn't been made sooner. Walker has paid a brutal price for the Roosters' indifferent form in the NRL, with the 20-year-old playmaker dumped to reserve grade by coach Trent Robinson.

Walker's halves pairing with Luke Keary excited experts with many tipping the duo to shine. However, Walker and Cleary haven't ignited the Roosters' attack this season and the 20-year-old has been dropped for this weekend's game.

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Walker has only contributed two try assists in six games in 2023, with Keary only managing two more in a Roosters side that's averaging 17.7 points per game. The Roosters headed into the 2023 season as one of the strong favourites, but sit ninth on the ladder.

NRL great Laurie Daley was one to admit the axing of Walker was a tough one. However, NRL guru Gould said Joseph Manu should have been brought into the halves earlier.

"Can't imagine why it's taken them so long to make the change," Gould said on the Six Tackle with Gus podcast. "That's there best halves combination, for mine.

"That's nothing against Walker, but at the end of the day, Keary has won premierships playing at that position. Manu, they've got to get him closer to the ball. They've got to get back to playing football, not just trying to out muscle teams...they need points."

Gould said Keary will be steering the team around, while Manu's role will be trying to create chances. And NRL reporter Paul Crawley also admitted a change was needed because of how similar Keary and Walker were in style of play.

“I don’t think the club had any option but to put Joey Manu at six, if you watch that game against the Sharks the other night and the way the two Roosters halves play so similar,” Crawley said on NRL 360. “And Keary was clearly the in-form player of the two... and then you’ve got a guy, a golden boot winner from last year (Manu) who was so exceptional for the Kiwis at the World Cup. They had no choice, it had to be done.”

Co-host Paul Kent agreed, adding: “Keary and Walker play so similarly, you need a point of difference, the problems they cause you, they are similar. They are similar body shapes, similar speeds, there are so many similarities there that if you prepare for one, you prepare for both.”

Roosters make changes after Sharks loss

Walker wasn't the only change Robinson has made following the team's disappointing performance against the Sharks. The Roosters' shake-up will see Paul Momirovski shift to Manu's regular spot in the centres, with Sitili Tupouniua making his way onto the bench after recovering from an ACL injury.

Angus Crichton's return is the good news story for the game though, with the Kangaroos' World Cup winner to bring some added class to Robinson's forward pack.

Sam Walker looking on during a NRL game.
Sam Walker (pictured left) has been dropped from the Roosters' staring team. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

"It's good to see him healthy and happy, I personally love playing with him," Roosters prop Matt Lodge said. "I rate him as one of the best back-rowers in the comp."

The prospect of Manu getting his hands on the ball more often will do little to safeguard the job prospects of under-fire Dragons coach Anthony Griffin. The Kiwi international represented New Zealand at fullback and was a much more damaging threat playing in the spine.

"He'll do a great job, he's a crafty player," said winger Daniel Tupou. "He's all-rounded and you know he's going to create (chances)."

with AAP

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