Rabbitohs star Cody Walker says he wasn't playing the footy he knows he's capable of in the weeks after his Origin axing but puts his round 19 bounce-back down to team continuity rather than any personal turnaround.
While Walker makes no secret about his disappointment at not getting the opportunity to show what he's capable of in Origin II and III, he says the chance to get some full weeks at training alongside teammates who had been missing built some combinations back up.
Fellow playmakers Damien Cook (Origin) and Adam Reynolds (back fracture), plus left-edge partner-in-crime Braidon Burns (hamstring) all missed significant training time during the dip in form experienced by both Walker and the club in their four-game losing run from round 12 to round 15. The key forward trio of Sam, Tom and George Burgess were all also mostly out in that period.
"It was nice to play the footy I know I'm capable of," Walker said.
"Over the last couple of weeks I haven't been at my best which I'm well aware of. It was just good to be the guy that I played like at the start of the year."
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Walker believes he has plenty more improvement still in him despite his try, try assist and 130 run-metres against the Dragons. It was his first try since Origin and his most run metres since his four-try demolition of the Warriors in round five.
"I think so (I was a bit flat after Origin), it's never easy getting rejected," he added.
"I wasn't playing my absolute worst, I just wasn't playing the footy I know I'm capable of. It was just good to get back to playing some good footy."
The key disappointment was not getting the chance to make amends after not producing his best in the first spell of his Origin debut, despite a much-improved second spell in which he set up a crucial try.
"First and foremost I was pretty disappointed I didn't get an opportunity to play game two," he said.
"I was disappointed in myself that I played the way I did in the first 60 minutes of Origin then I got taken off which I didn't obviously expect but it's what happens.
"I made sure when I was off the field that if I did get another opportunity that I'd go on and take it with both hands and I thought I may have done enough to get another opportunity but that's the way things go and it's what I have to deal with I suppose.
"I'm not going to sit and sulk and kick stones. It was just about getting back to what got me into those sides to begin with. I probably didn't do that for the next couple of games so it was just good to get back."
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Walker feels he wasn't patient enough in those games and says he needs to build further on what he achieved in the win over the Dragons. The continuity on his edge and with his fellow playmakers will help.
"Obviously on the left edge we had Braidon Burns back, he was out for a number of weeks so it was about getting continuity on the left edge," Walker said.
"In and around the spine we didn't spend a lot of time together throughout that four or five weeks ... we were playing pretty disconnected and we were never like that so it was just about us three or four players coming together and making sure in the games we are connected, we are talking about what's going on.
"It's good over the last couple of weeks we were able to close out games but we were probably making it hard for ourselves within the game."
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Reynolds defended the form of his halves partner, who he said did not change his approach during that period.
"He's always cranky with me!" Reynolds laughed. "He hasn't been any different. He's been himself.
"People touched on how his form hasn't been the greatest over the last month of football but he's still been doing a good job for us regardless of what people are saying, he's still playing error-free football, he's still asking questions of the defence and making his tackles.
"You can't set the world alight every week but in saying that he does a great job for us. We just love having him.
"I think when you get on a roll like that (Walker's early-season form) the expectation is to keep it up for a full year.
"There's not many players that have done that through their NRL careers ... he's still continually learning and developing on the run. It's one of those things you have to handle a bit of pressure and the outcome of people talking which I think he's done really well, he's brushed it aside and got on with his job. He's playing good for us, doing his job and making sure he does all the little things right."