With a league-leading 44 line-break assists and 33 try assists to his name, the 2021 NRL season has arguably been Cody Walker's best of his career.
That sentiment is echoed by most in the NRL circles, as the Nowra-born playmaker was on Monday shortlisted as one of five players in the running for the 2021 Dally M Medal.
"Of course it would be amazing to win a prestigious award like the Dally M," Walker, who has also scored 13 tries this season, said.
"But the reason I'm in the running for it is because of my excellent teammates.
"I could go through each and every one of them and explain how they've helped put me in a position to succeed and execute my plays.
"Individual accolades are a reflection on the team and as such, I've got to give them all the credit for helping me have the season I've had."
Two of the other five players in the running for the Dally M will line up against Walker on Friday at Suncorp Stadium, in Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic.
While the former may be the skipper, Walker admits his team need to "limit the impact" of Trbojevic in the first preliminary final.
"Tom's obviously had an outstanding year and not many teams have been able to stop him in 2021," Walker said.
"I don't know if it's possible to do so, rather try and limit his impact on the ball and game itself.
"If we can force them to come out of their own end as much as possible, not give them any leg-ups down the field, have high completions and solid kick chases, it'll put more pressure on Tom and the whole Sea Eagles side.
"If we don't give them many opportunities in our end, it'll limit his chances of hurting us, but we all know that's easier said than done.
"That's is one of many challenges we're looking forward to overcoming on Friday night."
This fixture feels like groundhog day for Walker and his side, who have lost at the preliminary final stage the past three seasons, including 20-16 to Penrith in 2020.
"You can't change the past, you can only shape the future, so what we've done since last year is figure out what we need to do better and improve in areas we know we can," said Walker, who admits the week off has "done the squad the world of good".
"I believe we've done that, especially throughout this year where we've learnt some lessons the hard way, in suffering a couple of heavy defeats.
"However, what we've changed since then is trying to go into each and every game with a defensive mindset, while also trying to start fast.
"Thankfully, we're reaping the rewards for that now and hope to continue that trend, especially in terms of dominating possession this week."
While Walker has never made it into the big dance, one player that has from the current Rabbitohs side is utility Benji Marshall, who the 31-year-old admits has had a huge impact on his career since joining the club.
"It's hard to put into words the impact Benji has huge not only on my game but also a lot of the young boys in the squad," the former NSW Blue said.
"From my perspective, I've been able to lean on him for advice, which has been invaluable, because he's achieved everything there is to do in our game
"He understands the game so well and is such an experienced campaigner - I can still remember watching him carve up sides back in 2005."
The only meeting for the two sides came back in round two where the Redfern-based club won 26-12 over Manly, but Walker insists you can't read much into that result.
"They're a totally different side from the last time we met, as are we," he said.
"Our defensive mindset is much sharper now because we know if we get that side of our game right, our attack will flow on from that."
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