The Warriors have further bolstering their ranks for 2023 and beyond, announcing the left-field signing of high-profile Manly utility Dylan Walker on a three-year deal from next season.
The 27-year-old comes off-contract at the Sea Eagles this year and spoke only last week of his desire to pen a long-term deal after getting by on shorter extensions in recent years.
Dylan Walker signed from 2023🔒✍🏽
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) March 2, 2022
Walker, a South Sydney junior, made his NRL debut for the Rabbitohs as an 18-year-old in 2013. The dynamic centre won a grand final with the club and played four Tests for Australia in 2014 shortly after turning 20.
He debuted for NSW in 2016 after linking with Manly, playing predominantly at five-eighth at club level that year, while he was named Dally M Centre of the Year in 2017.
Walker’s stocks dipped over the next three seasons, switching between centre and five-eighth, while injury kept him to just seven games in 2020. But after filling in at fullback during Tom Trbojevic’s absence in early-2021 and then enduring a two-month injury break – ironically tearing a hamstring against the Warriors – he emerged as a valuable bench weapon in the middle of the field as the Sea Eagles rallied from an 0-4 start to a top-four finish.
“He has proven himself among the competition’s best and most consistent players over the last two seasons, a player very much on top of his game,” said Warriors general manager football Craig Hodges in a club press release.
“He’s a high-quality centre who can also play in the halves, at fullback and fill a role in the middle if required. Dylan’s going to bring so much to our side from next season.”
But the veteran of 165 NRL games, as well as appearances for the Māori All Stars for the past three years, will arrive will a lengthy off-field rap sheet.
Walker and Souths teammate Aaron Gray were admitted to hospital in 2015 after overdosing on prescription drugs; he was fined $10,000 by Manly in 2016 for punching a door and breaking his hand; he was stood down by the NRL in December 2018 after being arrested for allegedly assaulting his fiancé, though the magistrate later dismissed the charges; and he escaped conviction last year for a November 2020 incident in which he pleaded guilty (after an initial not guilty plea) to assaulting two men outside a pizza restaurant.
The Warriors have not been shy to chase players with chequered pasts in recent years, however, and to date the faith has been repaid by the repentant recruits.
From a football standpoint, the acquisition of Walker shapes as a real coup. A genuine match-winner, he would seem to have several good years left in him, while centre is an area where the club has overwhelmingly struggled for a decade – but Walker’s versatility will provide massive value.
Walker joins livewire Cronulla half Luke Metcalf and impressive Parramatta second-rower/centre Marata Niukore as 2023 recruits, and is a further boost on the back of the re-signings of Josh Curran, Rocco Berry, Bunty Afoa and Jazz Tevaga, plus the 2022 arrival of Shaun Johnson and Aaron Pene on two-season deals.
“Signing Dylan is a terrific boost for us as we build and improve our roster for next season and beyond,” said Warriors CEO Cameron George.
“Along with our other major signings for 2023 and on, he will lend experience as well as adding hugely to our depth.”
Born: September 27, 1994
Birthplace: Sydney, NSW
Junior club: Mascot Jets
Previous clubs: South Sydney (2013-2015), Manly Warringah (2016-2022)
NRL debut: South Sydney v Wests Tigers, Stadium Australia, Sydney, May 17, 2013 (Rd 10)
NRL career: 163 appearances (2013-2021)
South Sydney: 62 appearances (2013-2015)
Manly Warringah: 101 appearances (2016-2021)
NRL points: 344 (65 tries, 42 goals)
South Sydney: 136 (33 tries, 2 goals)
Manly Warringah: 208 (32 tries, 40 goals)
Representative: 4 Tests for Australia (2014), 2 Origin matches for New South Wales (2016),
NRL All Stars (2015), Māori All Stars (2020, 2021, 2022)