Shannon Walker
Shannon Walker The Northern Star

Walker breaks through

WAYNE Lollback thought it strange that Shannon Walker was not named in any of the Gold Coast Titans teams through the week.

When he was Kyogle Under-18s coach, Walker was always one of the first players in his team.

"I've kept a pretty good eye on how they (Walker and Will Matthews) are going and I noticed he wasn't named in any teams until Friday, and I thought they were maybe going to give him a run," Lollback said.

His intuition proved right as Walker made his NRL debut in the Gold Coast Titans' 24-20 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night.

In an attempt to minimise pressure and shield the shy and freakishly talented 19-year-old from media attention, Walker's step up into the big league was kept secret by Titans management.

But they didn't fool his former coach.

"I went up," he said.

"It was a late decision.

"Technically I've been to all their home games and watched them play ... (but) I had Friday off and went fishing. I got there 10 minutes before kick-off."

Despite leading 16-0 at one stage, coach John Cartwright waited to send Walker on until the 62nd minute when the Bulldogs were finishing fast.

It was a curious decision given Cartwright has always maintained he would shield him from pressure.

"I guess they probably could've put him on 10 minutes earlier," Lollback said.

"He warmed up three or four times before he got out there.

"He would've been nervous and that was obvious in his preparation and even when he got on the field."

Lollback, who also selected Walker as Kyogle first grade coach, watched on with pride as he took the field.

"There is undoubtedly a sense of pride," he said.

"It's one of those things you wish for every footballer.

"But to be part of it or to think you've played a part in it is a pretty big gesture.

"No one could be as proud of him as his Dad, but you do feel like you've played a little part in it."

Walker's first touch will probably be one that he's keen to forget as he dropped the ball while getting to his feet, in his own quarter.

"I was a bit disappointed for him but I think if he can get his hands on the ball that's when he'll do the damage," Lollback said.

"He'll probably lose a bit of confidence, but given his record and how they've groomed him for the NRL ... I think he's the sort of kid who can bounce back.

"I'm sure once he gets his chance to establish himself then he can hold his position in the team.

"He's a superstar in the waiting."

Walker was the second of two players from the celebrated Northern Rivers Under-18 team of 2005 that won the NSW Country Championship to make his NRL debut.

Ballina's Mitch Aubusson played at lock forward with the Sydney Roosters on Friday night in their victory over the Parramatta Eels.


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