Darren Lockyer expects Wayne Bennett to have the Rabbitohs ready to go for their big Friday night blockbuster against the Roosters when the competition resumes next week, despite the latest controversy to hit Redfern.
Last night Nine News reporter Danny Weidler broke the news that Cody Walker had gone to the police to report an incident of blackmail, with the star five-eighth claiming he was asked for $ 20,000 to keep a video of him kicking a man in the chest out of the media.
This afternoon that video hit the public domain, ensuring South Sydney will spend another week in the headlines following last week's revelation that James Roberts was back in a rehab clinic for the third time and April's big story that followed Latrell Mitchell's social distancing breaches during a camp out on his property outside Taree.
The video that surfaced today (you can watch it in the video player at the top of the story) shows Walker flying in from the left and karate-kicking another shirtless man who was about to engage in a fight with a third person.
Walker is later seen marching down an empty street before swinging around and threatening to fight the man again, only for friends to stand in his way and drag him from the scene.
The footage is alleged to have taken place in Casino, his home town in the state's far north, last October.
Walker is subject to investigations by the police and the NRL Integrity Unit, putting a cloud over his involvement in the Rabbitohs' first game back on May 29.
While his absence would be a huge blow to South Sydney's chances of beating the two-time defending premiers, Lockyer told Wide World of Sports no coach was equipped to deal with a rocky build up like Bennett.
"I think the first thing he's always done is he's got the players' back and he's supported them through these kinds of things," Lockyer said.
"He's been very supportive of Latrell with the dialogue that's been going on around him at the moment and I'm sure he'll make Cody Walker feel like he's right behind him as well.
"One of Wayne's great strengths is he gets his players to play for him, so coming out and supporting them publicly, whether their form hasn't been great or something's happened off the field, he's always done that and shown that care factor.
"The players know that he cares about them and in return they want to play for him and it's the same when he tries to take the spotlight off the players and put it on himself, that's to shield his players, and again that enhances the motivation of the players wanting to play for him."
While the status of Walker's availability for the Rabbitohs' Round 3 clash is still unknown, Roberts is firming as a likely starter after his stint in rehab.
Last week Bennett was adamant that he would be persevering with Mitchell at fullback despite the temptation to switch him back to centre if Roberts is unavailable.
However, the prospect of Walker's unavailability could again prompt a conversation of a positional switch for Mitchell, with Lockyer considering him a strong candidate to fill in at five-eighth.
"In a way it's irrelevant who would go in there, they'll just have to adapt to what they've got," Lockyer said.
"Adam Reynolds is an organising halfback, he gets the team around the park, Cody adds that bit of x-factor, so that could come from Latrell.
"Maybe there's an outside chance that (Alex) Johnston might play fullback and Mitchell might go to five-eighth. That's one option."
Bennett is known to be a master of galvanising his teams in a crisis and he'll need to work his magic again to keep the Rabbitohs focused on the huge task they've got ahead of them against the winless Roosters next Friday.
Lockyer said all the distractions would make the opening 15 or 20 minutes of that game all the more important.
"I always felt like the start of your performance is pretty crucial at a time like this," Lockyer said.
"If you've got these distractions off the field and you don't start well it can sort of creep into the players' minds that that's the reason why.
"But if you go out there with a bit of motivation and you start the game well it can bring the team closer together and flow on to create a big performance against some adversity.
"As is often the case in this kind of circumstance we'll know either way by the half an hour mark."
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