More than a number: Why Keary has handed No.7 jersey to Walker

More than a number: Why Keary has handed No.7 jersey to Walker

Luke Keary always knew that he was only wearing the No.7 jersey until Sam Walker was ready to take it over and the Sydney Roosters playmaker believes that time has now arrived.

After scoring a try and setting up two more in Thursday night’s 34-16 defeat of the Broncos at the SCG, Keary said it felt natural to be back playing the five-eighth role, while Walker revelled at halfback on the opposite side of the ruck .

The differences may only be subtle but Keary said there was more to the halfback and five-eighth positions than just the numbers on his and Walker’s jerseys.



Luke’s hand too cool

“Playing No.6 on the left side is something I really enjoy and I feel comfortable,” Keary said. “I have obviously done it for a long time over there and I just know my role and I know how to get it done.”

Walker was called up last season to make his debut as an 18-year-old after Keary ruptured his ACL in round three and Roosters coach Trent Robinson wanted the three-times premiership winner to show his younger halves partner the ropes when he returned.

Keary, who revealed that he had committed to Ireland for the end-of-season World Cup, played the halfback role for the first 14 rounds of the season until a head knock against the Storm forced Walker to step up while he spent five weeks recovering .

During that period, Walker was also called into the Queensland Origin squad for the July 13 series decider and while he didn’t play the recognition has boosted his confidence.

Since Keary’s return, he has reverted to the five-eighth role against Manly and Brisbane, with Walker remaining at halfback.

“I said in the pre-season that at some point he is going to take over that role and he is more the natural No.7 type player,” Keary said. “We are definitely in a better place the way it is at the moment.

“He can feel his way through it a bit more rather than trying to do it in a position that he is not as comfortable in, in the No.6 jersey.”

Robinson said that the switch suited both players and he always envisaged it would happen at some stage during the season.



Robinson expands on the subtlety of his halves

“There is importance in a number and the side of the field, but there is also importance in the players’ individual style of play and how they can play and what to play,” Robinson said.

“They are high quality players that can dominate the opposition and as a 20-year-old you are going to run into different fits and spurts about the choices you make, so is a 30-year-old in the five-eighth style that Luke plays the game as well.”

Playing on the right side, Walker assumed most of the responsibility for in general kicking – particularly long kicks.

“Obviously the right side half does do a bit more kicking, you are on the better side to kick the long ones and as a seven that is your responsibility to get the team around and make sure you finish sets, and the six compliments that. ” Keyary said.

“We mix it up a bit. You want the seven to take care of option one and then the six can find an option two. You get a bit more freedom as a six, you are more linking with your backrowers than your middles, which is what I have enjoyed a lot in my career.”

Walker’s 13 kicks yield 319 meters times, while Keary kicked four times. Both forced a goal line drop out and Walker laid on the opening try of the match for second-rower Nat Butcher with a chip kick over the Broncos defence.



A try just within Butcher’s reach

“That’s the bits that he walked in the door with,” Robinson said of Walker.

“Dominating the start of a game and how you push a team around without touching the ball, they’re the things we are adding. But the instinct of seeing the fullback in the line and chipping the ball, that’s why we went and got him.”

Meanwhile, Keary confirmed his intention to play for Ireland at the World Cup in England.



Keyary coming in hot

“I stuck my hand up for them in 2017, it didn’t eventuate because I had a few things at the back end of the year so we will just see how the next few weeks go, but I have told the people I need to tell what my intentions are,” he said.

“I wish I did play for Ireland in that World Cup, I just didn’t get to. I have always had a connection there since I was a kid.

“Dad’s family are still over there. He has gone to visit, I haven’t been over there but you just feel proud. When you talked about it as a kid you always felt proud. It makes me good thinking about it.

Keary’s call follows Roosters team-mate Victor Radley’s recent decision to pledge his representative allegiances to England but the former Kangaroos five-eighth revealed he had been talking with Ireland officials for some time.

“I spoke to them at the start of the year,” he said. “We have got Jamaica, Lebanon and the Kiwis. If we can get through those first two games, I think we will be right.

“It is going to be a great World Cup, there are so many great NRL players who are putting their hands up to play for their nations of birth or heritage or where their parents come from. I think it is great for our game.”

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