Youngster Walker has self belief to succeed

Young Under 19s full back Jack Walker started his first season with the Under 19s last weekend making his debut in Perpignan with an assured performance at the back but his career was nearly over before it started a few years back.

The former Oulton Invader was playing for his amateur club when a tackle left him with a fractured skull. Two years later he has now signed a professional contract for the first time and is looking forward with confidence.

He recalled, “It was a scary time looking back now. When I fractured my skull loads of people were telling me that was my career was over and I should start looking at other career options. I stuck with rugby and managed to get myself a contract at the Rhinos.

“I don’t remember too much about it. I was at full back and they made a break, I went in to a tackle and the next thing I remember was waking up on the field with my mum and dad around me asking me if I was okay. I was out of contact in training for six months. That was a tough period, stood on the sidelines watching everyone play when I wanted to get out there. In training when everyone did contact I had to stand at the side, when we did fitness I was trying to be the best at that.”

Walker has thanked his former amateur coach Steve Fox for the influence he has had on his career, especially during that tough period. Fox is also part of the Rhinos scholarship coaching team along with Rob Burrow and Carl Ablett.  Walker added, “Steve Fox has been a massive help to me in my career. He was my coach at Oulton Invaders for two years and he was my coach at Under 15s and U16s at the Rhinos. He has really helped me a lot. It helps having a familiar face there and knowing there is someone you can talk.

“I originally started at full back and then switched to half back at my amateur club and that continued that at the Rhinos. I think it has helped me with my confidence and enables me to talk to my team mates and tell them where they need to be.

“Working with Rob Burrow was great for me; he is a role model for me. I can trust what he is saying because he has been there and done it,” added the first year Academy star.

Chris Plume’s Under 19s squad have faced a tough pre-season but Walker says the boys are looking to that hard work into practise now the season has started. He added, “It has been tough but I have enjoyed every minute of that challenge. Mainly the gym work has been the hardest, we are training every day. After Kirkstall was flooded, it has been difficult to get to training from college but I have been getting a lift from the older lads.

“The squad is quite relaxed and there is a good mix of ages. We had a camp a couple of weeks ago and that helped us gel with the older lads. We did different activities like solving problems together, we had to build a raft and we came first. Sam Hallas, Nathan Barker, Spencer Darley and Ben Longton were in my team and we got on really well.

“Everyone always tries their best in the scholarship and it paid off as we were unbeaten, hopefully the younger lads can bring that with them and we can continue that in the Under 19s.”

Rugby League has always been in Walker’s blood and he hopes to follow in the footsteps of another former Raider, Ash Handley. He added, “My dad played at East Leeds so I started there, I followed my brother and really enjoyed it. We moved house so I moved to Oulton, which was great for me because the coaching was so good at Oulton and it really helped me.

“My brother, Andrew, used to play with Ash Handley at Oulton and it has been great to see how he has progressed over the years.  I always work hard and you never know when you might get called up and Brian McDermott has shown he is happy to promote lads if they are ready.

“I am studying BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport at Leeds City College. It is tough at the moment but I am enjoying the challenge. I am getting my head down and doing my best. It is a bit of break from rugby for a while but then you are straight back into it,” added Walker.