Roosters coach Trent Robinson hasn't been surprised by Sam Walker's immediate rise in the NRL but admitted his rookie season in the NRL could've gone either way.
Walker scored a try and set up another as the Roosters overcame the loss of James Tedesco to shine on Anzac Day with a commanding 34-10 win over the Dragons at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The 18-year-old's performance was his second dominating effort in three weeks after steering the Roosters to victory against the Sharks in round five.
The loss of Tedesco proved the catalyst for Walker to spark to life in an effort that earned him player of the match honours.
"You don't know what the NRL is going to do to somebody," Robinson said post-match, referring to inexperienced players.
Match: Roosters v Dragons
Round 7 -
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
"They play junior footy or reserve grade a certain way and then they get on there and it just doesn't quite happen because of the time, speed and pressure that's involved.
"But he (Walker), in-between weeks, has been able to handle the pressure. Leading into the game he's really calm. He watches so much footy and has a big knowledge base.
"He's still able to put that into a free-flowing game and is able to get rid of all the noise that people carry for their first 30-50 games or their whole career.
"He can put it aside and play his footy. Our job is to not get in his way. Our job is to coach and develop him but not get in his way because he sees the game so well.
Walker steps through to set up Butcher
"We've got to keep learning how to adapt to him and his style. We're just getting started."
Robinson weighed in on the tackle that ended Tedesco's first Anzac game in charge as captain following a swinging arm from Jordan Pereira in the 34th minute.
The incident saw Pereira spend 10 minutes on the sidelines in an act of foul play that had Australian coach Mal Meninga declaring on Fox League the Dragons winger should've been sent off.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson alluded to similar sentiments without mentioning the exact words.
"I don't know, you can see we're shifting there a little bit," he said.
"They're doing better to send them to the bin. Obviously, the 18th player worked really well for us tonight and that's the way it should work. We've just got to reduce the amount of those.
"We're somewhere in between where we've always been and where rugby union is.
Pereira sent to sin bin for high tackle on Tedesco
"We don't need the judiciary to teach them lessons, we need the on-field refs so parents at home understand that the punishment happens right then and there.
"Not on a Tuesday night, they don't watch a Tuesday night. We need to protect the brutality of the game and why people watch.
"They need to get their lessons on the field on how to get down, how to get lower and get tackle technique in a better position because you'll punish your team on that night.
"That's when we'll get our real lessons and people knowing we're serious about it."
Bunker awards try to Walker
Tedesco's exit from the game, if anything, sparked the Roosters to life with Walker and Joey Manu stepping up to get the side home in front of a healthy 37,620 crowd.
Walker's dazzling footwork was on show as the Roosters peppered Pereira's vacant edge in the final six minutes of the first half with two tries setting up a 16-6 lead after an arm wrestle early.
From there, the Roosters went up another gear in the second period with a further three tries – one of which included Walker showing strength to weave his way over the line.
Manu shrugs off some tiring Dragons defence
St George Illawarra looked shell-shocked in comparison with their opening 20 minutes of the game when Lindsay Collins charged over the line in simple fashion to extend the lead.
An individual effort from Manu, who took advantage of flimsy goal-line defence from Josh McGuire and Andrew McCullough, put the game beyond doubt despite Mikaele Ravalawa snatching a late try.
"I thought it was a really physical start and that's the way St George have been playing," Robinson said.
"I liked in-between from the 15-35 minute mark, I thought we gained the ascendency there.
"I felt physically we were getting on top. That set up the game and then we started that again in the second half."
Both coaches made changes prior to kick-off with Jack Bird moving to five-eighth for the Dragons and Sam Verrills making his return from a knee injury for the Roosters via the interchange.
The clash started in a frantic fashion with three errors inside the opening minute soon compounded by a clumsy high shot from Tyrell Fuimaono on Tedesco that landed him on report.
Sam Walker claims Spirit of Anzac Medal
Griffin's gamble on Bird almost paid immediate dividends until the Bunker overturned a try in the seventh minute following a Roosters error in-goal.
The Roosters weren't out of trouble, however, with back-to-back sets from the Dragons setting the tone for Tariq Sims to crash over the line from an Andrew McCullough short ball.
That's where the momentum ended for the Red V though, with the side failing to respond once Pereira was given his marching orders.
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