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Monday, January 30, 2023

Inside Cody Walker’s bid to fill game’s glaring void

“He’s extremely smart. We’ve talked through his role and he and Matty Bowen will work predominantly on the attacking side of things and how we want to play.

“The big thing with having Cody as an assistant is that we’ve had some players unable to play under different circumstances.

Cody Walker has taken on game-planning duties under Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.

Cody Walker has taken on game-planning duties under Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou.Credit:Getty Images

“Having Cody as an assistant allows us to help develop that next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander coaches.

“And also if we’ve got coaches in clubland, then they’re able to help push the value of this game and give first-hand experience of what it means, how the players develop and go back to their clubs as better players.”

Walker has often spoken of his desire to fill a glaring void in rugby league’s coaching ranks, though at this point sees himself as an assistant in clubland rather than head coach when he does eventually retire.

The 33-year-old already takes a lead role in game-planning and strategy at Souths, where he recently re-signed through to the end of 2025.

Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett rank as the most illustrious figures Walker has played for.

But his relationship with Griffiths stretches back more than a decade to when the pair would combine for the Mindaribba Warriors in the annual Koori Knockout.

Griffiths wrapped up his own playing career as Walker’s captain/coach with a 2011 tournament win.

Walker’s playing/coaching All Stars role was the product of discussions between the ARL Commission and the NRL’s Indigenous Advisory Group.

For Griffiths, it underlines one of the All Stars week’s most important elements.

“It’s just about creating opportunities for these guys,” he said.

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“Opportunities lead to success. For a guy like Bailey Butler (the 24-year-old CQ Capras prop called into the Indigenous squad), this game is putting him in the shopfront window.

“You look at guys like Shaquai Mitchell and Josh Kerr, they hadn’t played first grade before playing All Stars and they’ve gone onto first-grade contracts. We’re hoping we can provide the same opportunity for Bailey.”

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