Cooper Cronk reveals how superstar playmakers Cody Walker and Luke Keary can return to their best

NRL greats and rugby league experts Cooper Cronk and Matty Johns have revealed how two of the game’s best playmakers can return to their best, after less-than-stellar starts to their 2022 campaigns. 

A four-time premiership-winning halfback with the Storm and Roosters, nobody knows the game better than Cronk, while Johns is a former grand final winner in his own right and one of the most well-respected experts in rugby league. 

And the pair have offered some perhaps timely advice to Luke Keary and Cody Walker.

It’s no secret that both men have started the year down on their best form.

Walker was electric last year as Souths made the grand final and produced try assists at will, while Keary is a former Clive Churchill Medal winner returning from a lengthy layoff due to an ACL injury.

Speaking on The Matty Johns Podcast, Johns spoke about older playmakers needing to recognise the need to evolve their game and in turn, prolong their careers well into their 30s – similar to how Cronk did with the Roosters.

“Playmakers love watching playmakers and not just Melbourne who are on fire, but I love watching playmakers as they start to evolve through their career,” he said.

“When they start to head towards that back-end of their career, a lot of times during that period of their career there are certain things that a playmaker has got to do.

“One of the things they have to do is making the adjustment of building your playmaking on speed and acceleration, and actually starting to use more smarts and nuance.

“What I’m seeing there is the two guys that come to mind are Luke Keary and Cody Walker.

“At the moment you can see them just adjusting their games and trying to find that next step in the way they do it.”

Keary missed the majority of 2021 due to the aforementioned injury and has looked somewhat off the pace since his return, which is to be expected given the nature of his recovery. 

The 30-year-old hasn’t been able to click as an out-and-out halfback after playing the majority of his career in the No.6 jumper, as his combination with Sam Walker continues to struggle to create and execute for the Tricolours.

Cronk believes it is a mental game with Keary, who is trying to be a halfback instead of being what made him one of the best playmakers of the last decade.

“I think it is a little bit more mental as well for those two,” Cronk said.

“Keary has taken in a lot of information that a halfback does during the week and it has sort of overshadowed what he is good at.

“He really needs to filter that and get back to what works for him.”

Walker on the other hand has just four try assists and four linebreak assists from eight matches so far this season. In comparison, he produced 33 try assists last season and was the catalyst for South Sydney’s grand final appearance. 

The 32-year-old is having to adapt to playing without halfback Adam Reynolds, as well as superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell – but Cronk believes he needs to start sharing the load around more.

“Cody on the other hand set up four million tries last year…he was so good” Cronk said. .

“I don’t think I have ever seen ball playing of such a high level over the course of a season – he was phenomenal.

“I think this year he is really searching for that. He just wants to get back to that.

“I think he probably needs to give a little bit more ownership to some other guys.”

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