Cody Walker rarely shies away from anything on or off the field, but for once the South Sydney maestro was humbled when his coach called him a “generational player” capable of doing things that no one else can.
It came after the Rabbitohs five-eighth laid on four tries in the epic win over the Roosters when seven sin bins were handed out in Sunday’s elimination final.
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“It doesn’t sit too well with me,” Walker responded when reminded of coach Jason Demetriou’s comments.
“I don’t believe I’m a generational player.
“There are a lot of players in our game that are great players that are generational players. It’s quite embarrassing, if I’m being honest.”
But his teammates disagree.
“I feel like we have a special team and Cody is a massive part of that,” Campbell Graham said.
“I feel like Cody is probably the most gifted attacking player I have played with.
“What he is able to do, his vision, his understanding of how the game works and how to attack spaces and the way he can harness his instincts off the back of that … it’s the best I have ever played with.”
Winger Alex Johnston has played alongside legends of the club like Greg Inglis, Adam Reynolds and John Sutton, but none of them have silky smooth hands like the 32-year-old Walker who has set up 23 tries this season despite not registering a single assist in the opening five rounds.
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“I’ve played a bit in the spine at fullback, and I’m just amazed at what he can do,” Johnston told the NCA NewsWire.
“Everything seems to be in slow motion and it’s the complete opposite to when I’m there. I don’t know how he does it.
“He’s a special talent and there aren’t many like him. A couple of the passes he threw on Sunday to set up tries were as good as you’ll see.
“That’s the Cody we need going forward in this competition because no one can do what he can.”
South Sydney’s left edge is good enough to carry them all the way to the grand final, and Jai Arrow knows they can win it all with Walker pulling the strings.
“He is a generational player,” the back-rower said.
“He always seems to make the right call and he always has time. He makes it look so effortless, so to play outside of him is an honour.”
That edge was on fire last week, with all five of their tries coming down the left flank.
That included another double to Johnston, who has now taken his tally to 30 tries, matching his haul from 2021.
His efforts can often be taken for granted given the frequency in which he scores and breaks records on the left wing, and it’s why Johnston often shies away from praise whenever it gets mentioned.
But even he is proud of his latest achievement, the first player in history to score 30 tries in two seasons.
“It’s pretty humbling to achieve something that’s never been achieved in the game,” he said.
“It’s pretty special to make history and it’s a real honour. I just go out there to do my job.”
His latest record is one he’ll never forget, but it’s not his most cherished moment of 2022.
That was back in round 12 when he scored the first of his three hat-tricks this season to go past club legend Nathan Merritt’s record of 146 tries for South Sydney.
He has since piled on plenty of four-pointers and now only sits behind Ken Irvine, Billy Slater, Steve Menzies and Brett Morris on the all-time list.
“The one to get the all-time record for Souths was a really special milestone,” said Johnston, who now has 166 tries.
“That’s something I wanted to achieve this year and it’s pretty special to achieve that goal at this club.”
Arrow has a pretty good vantage point every time Johnston scores on their edge and he says what he’s achieved cannot be underplayed just years after there were reports the Rabbitohs were considering letting him go.
“It’s a remarkable achievement,” he said.
“I know he has a lot of praise for Cody and Latrell getting him the ball in good positions, but he has such incredible hands and he always seems to know where to be.
“We’re so lucky to have him at this club, and it’s crazy to think that one day, touch wood, he’ll become the all-time greatest try scorer.”