Walker call-up won't change Blues attack

Scott Bailey
·3-min read

Brad Fittler won't tear up NSW's game plan from the State of Origin series opener despite Cody Walker's call-up for Luke Keary.

Fittler's decision to axe Keary and bring in Walker will give the Blues their 25th change in the halves in the past 15 years in Wednesday night's must-win showdown.

The switch comes as Origin greats such as Andrew Johns called for the Blues to pick a running five-eighth like Walker, claiming it will better suit halfback Nathan Cleary.

Cleary's ability to mix with Keary was always going to be a challenge headed into Adelaide.

At Penrith, Cleary had more touches than any half in the competition with Jarome Luai playing on the ruck and Dylan Edwards acting as playmaker on the edge.

That style is different to the one used at most other clubs and for NSW, where fullback James Tedesco is a threat everywhere and he and Keary both swing across the field.

But Fittler believes that Keary and Walker are similar players with Walker also a danger across the park, meaning the Blues' structure will remain for Sydney.

"Cody and Luke have been here for a long time so they know a lot of the other players," Fittler said.

"So it's more about Nathan coming in and them working together.

"I think it's been good. Him and Luke are very similar. They're very good at certain things and a lot of them are the same."

Fittler has doubled down on his support of Cleary this week, following the halves' problems in the 18-14 Game I loss.

Critics have pointed to the statistic he is yet to set up a try or linebreak in six Origin matches, overlooking the fact he has pioneered two series wins.

The Blues coach confirmed over the weekend that Cleary would be stand-in captain James Tedesco's deputy, eying him as NSW skipper of the future.

But pressed further on whether Walker's inclusion would change things for the Blues, Fittler was adamant it wouldn't.

"No it doesn't," he said.

"Everyone attacks the same these days. With the new rules and the way they are everyone hits the same line.

"They are pretty good at reading how many defenders and stuff.

"They know, so they know how to defend it and they'll know how Queensland play."

Instead, Fittler said the selection of Walker was more about what he thought would be more suitable as an individual at ANZ Stadium.

What is undeniable is that the 30-year-old was the form player of the competition over the final three months before coming off the bench for NSW in Adelaide.

He set up 17 tries, scored seven of his own and busted 42 tackles in a 12-week run that saw South Sydney score 403 points in the best purple patch of their history.

"The fact is naturally he (Walker) is a left player, a left kicker and all that sort of stuff," Fittler said.

"We're on his home ground and he's been incredible there this year.

"That's the bloke that I think will play best in game two. That was the reason."