Cody Walker was a surprise selection in the eyes of some observers to captain the Indigenous All Stars but coach Laurie Daley says it was an easy decision.
Walker has been named to lead out Daley’s side against their Maori counterparts in Friday night’s Harvey Norman All Stars clash, with the 29-year-old receiving the honour for what will be his first game in an Indigenous jersey.
Regular skipper Greg Inglis will miss the clash to help his body recover for the start of the NRL season and Daley said Walker was the clear standout as his replacement after impressing in camp earlier in the week.
“We have lost a lot of leadership out of the group over the last 12 months so we wanted to see the guys interacting during the week and who the leaders were,” Daley said.
“It was a decision in the end that was quite easy.
“Cody will thrive on being captain… I think he can lift the boys and they respect him.”
Walker said it was a surreal moment when he found out he would captain the supremely talented Indigenous All Stars outfit.
“You dream about these things,” Walker said.
“If you had told me four or five years ago I would be playing in an Indigenous team as All Stars captain I probably would have laughed at you and told you to go away.
“But it is something I am very proud of.”
Walker was a relatively late arrival to rugby league, with the Rabbitohs utility bouncing around a few different clubs before being picked for his NRL debut against the Roosters in the opening round of the 2016 season.
He has since thrived in South Sydney’s famous cardinal and myrtle jersey and said much of his newfound maturity came down to the care and understanding he received from his partner, Nellie Bell, and young sons Kian and Kadey.
“I put a lot of it down to the support I get at home,” Walker said.
The livewire Rabbitoh said he hadn’t had a lot of time to reach out to his partner since being named captain, with a quick catch-up on the team bus all he has managed so far.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to speak to her yesterday. I gave her a message and she Facetimed me on the bus,” Walker revealed.
“She sort of screamed the car down, so she is certainly excited.”