Lake Macquarie are clear of the dreaded wooden spoon and can’t make finals, but the chance to help skipper Sam Walker claim the Northern NSW NPL scoring title is giving the Roosters plenty of motivation for the final two rounds.
Walker finished second in the race with 12 goals for the Roosters last season and in 2014, both times behind Kane Goodchild, but this year he is in prime position to go one better.
He has 15 goals, one more than Broadmeadow’s James Virgili, who may not play again until the finals because of a hamstring injury, and Kale Bradbery.
The prize would a deserving reward for Walker, who almost won in 2014 despite the Roosters finishing last and copping relegation.
Despite attractive offers from heavyweight clubs to stay in the NPL, Walker stuck with Lake Macquarie through their two seasons in second division.
He has proven his skills and composure in front of goals again in Lakes’ return to the NPL, challenging for most goals in 2017 when the Roosters finished seventh and this season for the ninth-placed club.
Lake Macquarie coach Nick Webb said Walker was a special player.
“He’s a good guy and he’s done a really good job this year as captain as well,” Webb said. “He’s played a different position than what he’s used to and it’s taken him a while to get used to it, but he’s still knocking away goals.
“We’re playing him a bit deeper so he can run into the forward area, playing in the 10 or sometimes even deeper than that, not just as a target man up top.
“He’s really warmed to that position. Because he works so hard, you’ve got to stop him chasing the ball too much and get him to focus his energy on getting forward and popping away goals.
“And he’s the first one to say it could have been anything. The chances he’s missed this year, he just doesn’t normally miss, and then he scores the bombs.”
Webb said his team had spoken about ensuring Walker has every chance to finish on top.
“He missed a couple on the weekend and you can see he’s getting a bit nervous,” he said. “He’s come second twice, so he really wants that prize and we hope he gets a goal or two over the next couple of games and secures that.”
The Roosters dented Maitland’s top-four hopes with a late equaliser on Sunday from Mitch Hunter and they face an Edgeworth side who can secure a fourth consecutive premiership at home this Sunday.
“Edgy are almost there but their mindset has got to be the right way to get past us, because we troubled them last time [in a 2-0 loss] and I’m sure we’ll trouble them again,” Webb said.
“We believe we can win both games so we’ll have a good go at them.”
The Roosters finish the season against Lambton Jaffas.