Sam Walker Hype Train False Start?
One of the numerous players that got his own hype train amongst some members of the fantasy community last year was Sam Walker. Many thought he’d be able to take a step up in his 2nd year and grow further into his role with an improved Roosters side and a returning Luke Keary, while the prevailing consensus amongst us here at the Amateurs was that there was likely a little bit of value but not enough to warrant consideration of a buy, which ultimately proved true. However, what if I told you the Sam Walker truthers were potentially right, if not only a year early…
In 2021, when adjusted for new scoring, Walker averaged 35.5 (37.8 in 80min appearances) and was able to improve on this last season increasing to 42.2 (42.7 in 80min appearances). For the most part, the majority of Walker’s 2022 stats remained similar to the year prior. His average number of tackles, tries, try assists, line breaks, negatives, run and kick metres remained largely the same with only a significant rise in goal kicking accounting for the majority of the difference in scoring.
In round 16 last season, there was a significant shift that occurred. Walker moved from the left side, where he had been since his debut, and shifted to the right as well as moving from Five-Eighth to Halfback. Walker technically wore the 7 jersey his rookie season but he was playing as the 6 that year with Hutchinson steering the ship. In round 16 this became Sam Walker’s team. From round 16 onwards, his kick metres jumped from 97m per game through round 15 to 347m per game while his try assists went from 7 in 15 games to 8 in 9 games and his forced dropouts jumped from 6 in 15 games to 10 in 9 games.
Of course this shift occurred shortly after Luke Keary was injured and missed a few weeks, but it continued upon his return. From Round 19 onwards Keary was in the supporting role seeing his kick metres drop from 327m per game to 140m. Keary will be 31 by the time the season kicks off and if his World Cup performances with Ireland were any judge, he certainly seems to be a step behind his peak. While Walker will turn 21 mid-season and is undoubtedly the future of this team. Walker’s up tick in attacking and goal kicking stats over the last third of the season was in part due to the Roosters playing much better football over that stretch. Going into 2023, the Roosters find themselves as the 2nd favourites in the premiership betting currently, with the addition of Brandon Smith and the nucleus of their core returning, so if they fire from round 1 like many expect, I dont think it’s unreasonable to see Walker touching a 50 average this season. However, with Fanhub playing around with price, putting him at 44 ($638’000) combined with a stack of other halves options and relatively tough run for the Roosters from round 3 to 7 where they’ll play 4 of last years top 8 teams with a bye thrown in, I can’t recommend starting with Walker at this stage.
What are your thoughts on Walker? Are you burned from last year or is this the year he steps up as playmaker of this premiership contender?