NRL: Confident NZ Warriors well placed to build on success of 2023 NRL campaign

Veteran utility Dylan Walker cuts a relaxed figure at the best of times, but admits the NZ Warriors camp is less on edge than 12 months ago, before their breakthrough 2023 NRL campaign.

Coming off their worst-ever season and under the guidance of first-time head coach Andrew Webster, the club faced a high degree of uncertainty over their immediate prospects.

Suffice to say, after reaching the preliminary final, those doubts no longer exist.

Dylan Walker in action for Maori All Stars in NRL pre-season.
Dylan Walker in action for Maori All Stars in NRL pre-season. Photo credit: Photosport

"There was a feeling of just being unsure last year, to be honest," reflected Walker. "We didn't know if it was going to work or not.

"Webby always believe it was going to hold up over the course of the year and, to his credit, it did. It gave us the belief we needed to ride it out.

"Coming into this year, having full and complete trust and knowing what that system is and how it works... we saw it all last year, so I think everyone's come in pretty excited, pretty keen. The belief there is pretty high.

"We're keen to get playing and win some footy games. We haven't really spoken about last year and how we can get to that point again or external pressure.

"We've just spoken about the details, what we need to know for each and every session, and I think that's a credit to Webby and the coaching staff, just keeping us honest and pretty grounded."

Walker himself was new to the club, after playing nearly 200 games for South Sydney and Manly, and probably had little idea how he would fit into Webster's vision. His role didn't take long to evolve, as he came off the bench for interchange impact among the forwards, in tandem with fellow 'Bald Brother' Jazz Tevaga.

By season's end, he even had a chance to captain the team in his own inimitable style.

Turning up to the season's first media session with a healthy stubble on his dome, Walker sent shock waves through gathered reporters that perhaps the partnership with Tevaga was no more.

Rest assured, the pair are still thick as thieves, after a week away together with the Maori All Stars at Townsville. 

"I got a late call-up about doing this last night, so I didn't have time to shave the head," he assured. "Sorry, it's a bit kina-like or a lollipop dropped on the carpet.

"Thanks for the heads-up."