James Tedesco has warned NRL rivals to target teen sensation Sam Walker at their peril as the Sydney Roosters half prepares for the biggest challenge of his burgeoning football career on Friday night.
Walker showed on Saturday he has more than just pure skill, bouncing back from being targeted in defence to engineer a remarkable 26-18 comeback win over Cronulla.
His late seven-minute blitz produced two try assists with cut-out balls and a maiden four-pointer of his own.
But Walker will face an even sterner test against Melbourne in just his third NRL game.
The Roosters fully expect the Storm to direct plenty of traffic at their young half, who weighs in at just 78kg and is the second lightest player in the NRL.
Melbourne will have the 105kg Kenny Bromwich running directly at Walker, while fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and their forwards will no doubt spend plenty of time in that channel.
Not that it concerns Roosters captain Tedesco, who watched Walker recover from being run over early by the Sharks before leading the late charge from 18-4 down with 18 minutes to play.
“You wouldn’t think he is an 18-year-old who has only played two first-grade games,” Tedesco said.
“He just plays footy and that’s how he was brought up.
“He doesn’t get flustered. He doesn’t dwell on things. He just plays what he sees, no matter what the score is.
“(Chad) Townsend was giving it to him, but cop that Townsend. He showed him how to play footy.
“They were going after him but it doesn’t faze him if you run over him… he’ll still carve you up.”
Walker is ready to embrace the challenge, admitting he needs to be better in defence while still holding his own given his size and youth.
“I was expecting that (against Cronulla) and we will look forward to it (against Melbourne),” Walker said.
“They are always going to come at the little fellow on the field and I have got to own that.”
Making Walker’s performance even more remarkable is the fact that the win over Cronulla was just his fourth competitive game against men.
“It’s harder (than lower grades) but it’s also easier because everyone knows their role and knows their job, so you just have to do your job,” Walker said.
“It made my job easier having Teddy there and a few of the older boys talking through what we needed to do.”