We might have seen glimpses of it at the back end of the 2023 NRL season, but Sam Walker used ANZAC Day to well and truly prove he is the man to ensure the Sydney Roosters are built different to the team of the last few seasons.

In what could realistically be only described as the best performance of his young career to date, Walker played a heavy hand in the Roosters' one-way traffic demolition job of the St George Illawarra Dragons.

The final scoreline read 60 points to 18, and while some will say that might have told the whole story of the contest, it doesn't go even halfway to describing Walker's brilliance.

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   Crowd: 40,727

Yes, they were ‘only' playing the Dragons, but given the Red V's start to the year and the form of the joint-venture under new coach Shane Flanagan, there are easier tasks currently floating around the NRL.

It also didn't help the Dragons that it was their third game in 11 days, or that star centre Moses Suli was left concussed out of the opening run of the game after colliding with New Zealand prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

But none of that can explain the performance of Walker, who ripped the Dragons apart limb from limb throughout the course of the contest.

By the time it was all said and done, Walker, who was correctly named man of the match, had 24 points to his name with ten goals and a try, two try assists, a tackle bust a pair of offloads, three forced drop outs and 370 kicking metres.

But it was what can't be shown on the stats sheet which was most of note throughout the game. Despite only being credited with the two try assists, the youngster was involved in most of the Roosters' attack throughout the afternoon, while his kicking game was second to none.

Again, the Dragons didn't put Walker under a world of pressure with their slow-moving and generally fatigued defence, not aided by only having 40 per cent of the ball during the first half, but Walker took full toll of what was in front of him, and played the game for exactly what it should be.

One of the key criticisms that has been levelled at the Roosters over the past 12 months in particular is that they simply don't get it right structurally in attack.

It's a delicate mixing pot for coach Trent Robinson when you consider the number of high-profile ball users within the side. We all know of James Tedesco's talent, but his ball usage is at times off the charts and then directly impacts the tri-colours level of play in attack, while Luke Keary has been used in both the six and seven role over the last 12 months without properly excelling at either one.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 05: James Tedesco of the Roosters runs the ball during the round one NRL match between the Dolphins and Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on March 05, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Walker's form at times has been mixed, and so too has Brandon Smith, who joined the Roosters to become a fully-fledged NRL number nine, rather than continuing the stop-start role he had been playing alongside Harry Grant at the Melbourne Storm throughout his career to the end of the 2022 season.

The signing of Smith had - and still does have - plenty of potential for the Roosters, but it's almost undeniable to say the New Zealander simply hasn't played at the level which Robinson and his recruitment staff might have been expecting when they signed Smith on a rich deal, beating out the Dolphins and a host of other clubs for his services.

While Smith has been somewhat inconsistent, when he has been at his best, he has looked every bit a quality number nine, and it comes as little surprise that those games have come with Walker at the helm, controlling the side from the number seven jersey.

It also comes as little surprise that Tedesco has played his best football over the last 18 months with Walker wearing the number seven, rather than attempting to fit in playing five-eighth.

Walker's long-term injury which derailed his 2023 season certainly didn't help matters for the Bondi-based club that snuck into the finals, but the Roosters improved dramatically when he returned at the back-end of the season.

His control in the number seven certainly allows him to play his best rugby league, but it's the way he can make others look better around him, particularly in the spine, which is the best asset to the tri-colours.

It does mean Tedesco touches the ball less, but that is a good thing. It makes him a far more unpredictable and dangerous weapon which again was on show during the ANZAC Day beatdown - he only had 16 runs, but made almost 180 metres, put on a try assist and looked a genuine threat with the football in hand more often than he didn't.

The same can go for Keary, who has an excellent running game - the more the defence were focused on Walker throughout the course of the game, the more he was able to run the football and create his own headaches.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: Luke Keary of the Roosters looks on during the 2019 NRL Grand Final match between the Canberra Raiders and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

And of course, Smith looks better as any dummy half does when time and space becomes available in its droves, which it tends to do with Walker orchestrating the defence.

None of that is realistically possible without Walker's kicking game being on song though, and this is going to now be the next challenge for the Roosters: consistency.

The week prior to their mauling of the Dragons, the tri-colours came up short against the Melbourne Storm, and they have had some other average results throughout the course of the campaign which will leave Robinson scratching his head over how to take the side to the next level.

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   Crowd: 17,714

Still, it's now crystal clear that if the Roosters want to be built different in 2024 to what they were in 2023, it's going to be Walker who will be the leader of the charge, with the rest of his more experienced spine simply following in his tracks.

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