Rugby League has provided a refuge for Dylan Walker during his ongoing troubles, his best friend and Manly teammate Api Koroisau has revealed.
Walker made an impressive early return from an off-field hand injury in Manly's win over Newcastle at Brookvale on Sunday, playing a starring role as the Sea Eagles kept their finals hopes intact.
It is not the first time Walker has shown an innate ability to leave his problems behind once he steps out on the NRL field.
"Dylan's a really strong kid," said Koroisau, who has shared a house with Walker on Sydney's northern beaches since the duo moved to Manly at the start of the season.
"He's been through a lot and still come out the other end.
"I think one of Dylan's best coping mechanisms is going out and playing footy after all the media and all the attention he receives. At the end of the day, he just loves his footy."
Walker's latest drama followed upon his highly criticised selection in the NSW side for State of Origin I and II this year, after which he became a lightning rod of blame for another Blues series loss.
The 2014 South Sydney premiership winner was released from the Rabbitohs at the end of last season after a prescription drug overdose. His legal counsel Julianne Levick said he has been "treated like a piece of meat".
Manly coach Trent Barrett said Walker answered an 'SOS' to return early from injury, suffered when he put his hand through his apartment front door incuring a club-imposed $10,000 fine, after skipper Jamie Lyon was ruled out of the crunch clash with the Knights due to a calf injury.
"He was coming into this game no matter what. He's a tough kid and he really knows how to look after himself," Koroisau said.
"He's done well to cope with all the media attention and with everything going on. He knows the best thing for him is to play footy.
"We played footy together in the 20s in 2011 so I've known him for a good four or five years now and he's always been a good friend of mine. He's never changed."