Sam Walker interview: Rooster prepares to celebrate NRL debut with $1m payday
Sam Walker interview: Rooster prepares to celebrate NRL debut with $1m payday

Roosters prodigy ready to live up to $1m payday

Sam Walker has declared he is ready for the biggest test of his fledgling career as the teenage sensation prepares to celebrate his NRL debut with a $1 million payday at the Roosters.

A Bondi injury crisis which has claimed halves Luke Keary and Lachlan Lam has opened the door for whiz-kid Walker to make one of the most-hyped NRL debuts in Sunday's clash against the Warriors at the SCG.

Walker's blooding at halfback will be the prelude to the rookie inking a multi-year extension in the next fortnight that will see the Queenslander remain at the Roosters until at least the end of 2023.

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At 18 years and 292 days, Walker is the eighth youngest No.7 since the birth of the NRL in 1998, making him seven days younger than Cameron Smith when the Storm champion debuted at halfback against Canterbury in 2002.

Warriors forwards Addin Fonua-Blake, Bunty Afoa and Tohu Harris are certain to target Walker, but the wiry 80kg playmaker is adamant he won't be intimidated.

"I'm ready to play NRL," Walker said ahead of the Warriors clash. "This is what I've dreamed of since I was a kid.

"I'm not overawed by it (his NRL debut) at all. The pressure doesn't worry me.

"I remember when I was 15 I'd be training against men in the (Ipswich) Jets team in the Intrust Super Cup. I've been around the game my whole life.

"I've been training with the best players in the NRL at the Roosters, so I know I can go out there and perform and play my game.

"It was my ambition to play in the NRL for a long time so I'm keen to take it with both hands ... I'm determined not to let anyone down."

 

In a twist of fate, Walker will oppose Warriors halfback Sean O'Sullivan, who was once Mitchell Pearce's understudy at the Roosters and played his one and only game for the Tricolours in 2018 before moving to the Broncos.

The Roosters have a history of blooding teenage playmakers. Pearce made his Roosters debut at 17 years and 351 days against Johnathan Thurston's Cowboys in a 43-6 loss in 2007 and the experience did not derail his career - the now Newcastle schemer played his 300th NRL game last weekend.

 

Youngest halfback debutants since the birth of the NRL in 1998

PlayerTeamSeasonRoundYearsDays
Denny LambertCowboys19982417334
Mitch PearceRoosters2007217351
Tom DeardenBroncos201981850
Michael MorganCowboys2010918134
Luke BrooksTigers20132418246
Rhys HanburyRabbitohs2004918256
Jack CoggerKnights20161018284
Sam WalkerRoosters2021418292
Cameron SmithStorm2002518299
Brodie CroftStorm2016518340
Ben HuntBroncos2009151987

 

Rated a future Origin and Test halfback, Walker has been mentored by former Roosters playmaker Cooper Cronk and he lamented the loss of Keary, who played a key role in the teenager's move to Bondi.

"I really feel for Luke," Walker said. "He has been instrumental in my development over the last 18 months.

"To see him go down like that was just devastating - it's a huge blow for the team."

The Roosters are moving swiftly to avert a bidding war for the off-contract Walker.

The Queensland under-18s playmaker's new deal will be worth more than $300,000 a season. Over a three-year term, Walker will become one of Australian sport's richest teenagers, but footballing education, not money, is his motivating force.

Originally published as Roosters prodigy ready to live up to $1m payday



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