Three doesn’t go into two at the Roosters

NRL Rd 27 - Rabbitohs v Roosters
There have been calls for the Roosters to make a major change in the halves, but Sam Walker insists he and Luke Keary are the perfect pairing to take them forward. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Sam Walker has heard all the murmurs that he performs better with Sandon Smith than he does with Luke Keary, but the youngster had defended his experienced halves partner who he says makes him feel more confident on the field.

The Roosters struggled in attack against the Panthers last week, with the three-time defending premiers suffocating them through the middle and closing in quickly whenever they tried to spread the ball.

The halves couldn’t get anything going until it was too late just a week after they piled on 48 points in a crushing win over the Rabbitohs that had them looking like a genuine premiership threat.

The difference that week was that Smith started in the halves with Keary out following a head knock in round two, and it’s led to some criticism online that perhaps Walker plays his best footy with Smith who is out for an extended period with an elbow injury.

Sam Walker isn’t buying into the criticism of his combination with Luke Keary. picture: NRL Photos
Sam Walker isn’t buying into the criticism of his combination with Luke Keary. picture: NRL Photos

“You can go off one result against the three-peat premiers, it’s easy to point fingers there. But ‘Kez’ has been awesome to start the season and I feel like that combination is on a really good path at the moment,” Walker said, with Keary signed on until the end of 2025.

“It’s hard. As halves you’re always going to cop that scrutiny. If the team is going well, the halves are playing well and they get all the credit. And vice versa, if you’re not performing it’s often put back towards the halves there. It’s something you have to live with.

“I felt really comfortable with Kez at the start of the season. And then ‘Sando’ came in and played a really good role as well against the Rabbitohs.

“We’re a pretty tight unit, and we all play that similar sort of style as well. Whoever is in there we feel really comfortable they’re going to do the job there for us.”

Keary has played a key role in Walker’s development since he debuted in 2021, with the Roosters’ class in the halves set to be a huge advantage against the Bulldogs on Friday night.

NRL Rd 22 - Broncos v Roosters
There have been calls for Sandon Smith to play five-eighth when he returns from injury. Picture: Albert Perez/Getty Images

“That experience he brings as well, like personally for myself (has been important),” he said, with the Roosters also losing in round two when they combined against Manly.

“There’s a lot of momentum shifts and a lot of moments in the game. That experience that he’s had for 11 or 12 seasons now is something pretty good for me to lean on.

“He’s very confident as well, and I feel like he just sheds that confidence towards you no matter what the situation. If we’re down or if we’re up, he’s always confident. He knows what he needs to do and he goes and does his job.”

Walker was outstanding against the Rabbitohs with a couple of tries before he was ruled out of the contest by the independent head doctor which meant he would have missed the Panthers game had the club not appealed to the NRL and won.

Still only 21, the future rep player is starting to take control of the team just 12 months after he was dropped and then missed four months due to a knee injury.

Sydney Roosters Captain's Run
Sam Walker has improved parts of his game since he was dropped to NSW Cup last year. Picture: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP

“As a whole in my game, I’m feeling really comfortable. I think it’s the best form on both sides of the ball. I feel really comfortable in that role,” he said.

“I just want to keep building on all those little areas in my game and keep trying to build on my connections with the rest of the team.

“The start of the season is always the toughest period of time to try and work through, everyone finding their feet and finding out where everyone’s at. Hopefully we will keep building this way, the way we’ve been going.

“Those two wins we have had so far been really impressive as well. It’s just trying to find that same sort of form in those other games.”