NSW five-eighth Cody Walker says the criticisms levelled at the Blues after their upset Origin I loss weren't tough to take compared to not being able to hug his kids after a triumphant Origin II win.
Walker is no stranger to shrugging off the doubters, recovering from last year's up-and-down Origin debut and subsequent dropping to recapture his best form and return to the Blues this year with a dangerous game-one cameo off the bench and a starring 80-minute effort in the game two win.
It was halves partner Cleary who copped it most after game one, but the Panthers star hit back stronger than anyone with a dominant game two man-of-the-match effort.
"The beauty of being in the bubble on the central coast in a camp type situation, you don't really look at the outside noise – you don't have time to look at the outside noise," Walker said.
"Any free time you do have is ringing home to the family. We were on such a high but straight after the game I couldn't go and cuddle my kids. It was quite hard to take in.
"The kids were like, it's late, they're a bit tired, I thought that was really really tough after the game going to see them and not being able to give them a cuddle.
"That was quite tough but they understand the situation we're in, they're a bit older, my eldest turns nine in December so they sort of understand the end result."
Walker breaks through on the right
Walker spoke ahead of game two about having unfinished business at Origin level but despite proving he can excel there, he regards that business as still unfinished.
"[Winning game two] means absolutely nothing if we don't go up to Queensland and put on a good show and take off from where we finished off tonight," he said.
"They won the possession game in Adelaide. We wanted to change that and I thought we did that really well.
"Another thing we wanted to improve was where we finished our sets and I thought especially in that first half we finished deep inside their half and when you build a lot of pressure, opportunities come off the back of that. Any team, it's really, really hard to come out of that deep inside your half."
Having now more than justified his selection, Walker looks back on his dropping last year with no hard feelings.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 3 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
"I never felt like a scapegoat," he said.
"I felt after the game that was pretty much it for me in the Origin arena, I didn't think I'd get another opportunity.
"I just needed to recapture the form that got me into the side in the first place and I didn't do that until the back end of last year then this year I didn't even worry about Origin, I just wanted to go out and play footy."
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