“It’s always good to get back and have a win behind it as well. The players have been extremely good with him. I think he’s just happy to be playing again with a good result.”
Walker stood opposite NSW centre candidate Josh Morris and left the watching Brad Fittler no clearer on who he will pick down that side where Queensland’s Kalyn Ponga and Cameron Munster roam.
When Reuben Garrick went all Ronaldo and toed a bomb into Josh Dugan, it ricocheted to Walker, who was in the right place. He kicked ahead himself and scored. Shark Park wasn’t quieter all afternoon.
Another Sharks bomb hit the turf and then hit Walker fair on the backside when he wasn’t looking. Such was how the afternoon rolled, the ball went nowhere and he was able to dive on it.
It was far from the most strange occurrence all afternoon as the Sea Eagles won for the 16th time in 18 clashes with the Sharks.
Only in rugby league could you find the man holding the highest office in the country, beer in hand leading a standing ovation for Andrew Fifita.
The NRL has its share of colourful characters and Fifita might win the popular vote if there was ever a referendum on the issue.
He wasn’t supposed to play this game carrying a hamstring game. But so desperate was he to ensure his 200th NRL game was on his home patch, he trudged through a guard of honour and specially designed shirts to celebrate the milestone which brought newly re-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison to his feet.
A couple of hours later, Morrison’s beer didn’t taste so good.
He won the unwinnable election against Bill Shorten, but the Sharks found a more formidable foe in Des Hasler. Last year a poll of preferred coaches had Hasler ahead of, well, not many. Right now the mad scientist is Dally M Coach of the Year material.
He doesn’t have Daly Cherry-Evans, who is an outside chance of being back next week. He doesn’t have Tom Trbojevic. He wasn’t supposed to be doing much with Manly. And yet here they are beating up on teams many thought they couldn’t, mainly through defence and attitude.
“I don’t want to talk too much on the negatives, I was pretty impressed with the way we kept turning them away,” Hasler said. “I thought there were some really good signs, especially on our tryline. They’re really working hard for one another and that’s what defence comes down to at the end of the day. It’s going well.”
The Sharks have more than their fair share of their own injuries, but few thought they would trail 18-4 at the break.
Josh Dugan was having one of those days. Josh Morris is supposed to be angling for NSW selection, but smacked the turf in disgust when Brendan Elliot skinned him for a try. Kane Elgey kicked and somehow the ball found its way back for him to eventually score.
Walker’s try padded the margin to 20. As always with the Sharks, there was a rally. Braden Hamlin-Uele and Sosaia Feki scored. But there was no Sco-Mo miracle on the afternoon after the night before.
Just one man happy to be back, even if his popularity might be recovering from an all-time low.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.