Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou says injured five-eighth Cody Walker is a “big chance” to play in the historic season-opener in Las Vegas despite being ruled out of the All Stars clash with a calf strain.
Walker, 34, has been virtually injury free since he made his debut, with the playmaker featuring in at least 20 games every season since 2016.
But the man who sets up tries for fun on South Sydney’s left edge is racing the clock to be fit for the game against Manly on March 3 after he hurt his calf and immediately ruled himself out of Friday’s game in Townsville.
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Even a low-grade strain would likely rule him out of the Vegas voyage, but his coach is optimistic that Walker will be fit to play.
“He just had a minor calf issue yesterday so he’ll get a scan tonight (Sunday) and we’ll know more tomorrow morning,” Demetriou said.
“He’s optimistic. I spoke to him today and he said it’s feeling a lot better than he thought it might.
“Fingers crossed the scan results come good and we can get him ready for round one.
“He’s still a big chance (for Vegas).
“He never felt anything but just pulled up tight. We didn’t risk it which was good.”
Meanwhile, Demetriou isn’t panicking despite facing the prospect of being without star centre Campbell Graham for up to six months after the club decided the time was right for him to have surgery to repair damage to his sternum.
Graham battled the injury for much of the 2023 season, with the setback costing him a potential Blues jersey in a year he scored a career-high 16 tries.
It’s a devastating blow but Demetriou can see a small positive.
“It’s not overly disappointing because he needs to have it done,” he said after the Rabbitohs were thrashed 68-6 by Manly in a trial game in Gosford.
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“We’re disappointed because we know he’s not going to be there at the start of the season, but we’re feeling good because we know when he gets it fixed that we’re going to have the best version of him back, and that’s what we need.
“We need him back happy and being able to be the Campbell Graham we know he can be.
“I’m looking forward to him getting back to his rehab and into the team at his best. That’s where the decision was made.”
Isaiah Tass is the man most likely to replace Graham at right centre, while Taane Milne may start the season there with new recruit Jack Wighton suspended.
“He’s fine. It’s been a long road and a tough battle for him,” Demetriou said.
“We hoped that it would heal, but it hasn’t. It has to some extent because he’s training and feeling a lot better than he was, but we can’t guarantee that it’s going to fix itself.
“It’s a long year in the NRL and he’s got a great year ahead of him so that came into play as well.”