Leeds-born youngster set to make NRL debut

When Sydney Roosters take on New Zealand Warriors on Sunday morning, live on Sky Sports from 9.10am, eagle eyed fans will get a chance to see one of the most exciting young prospects in the Australian game make his debut and he was born in Leeds!

Half back Sam Walker is the 18-year-old son of former Leeds player Ben Walker (heritage number 1335). Ben played for the Rhinos in the 2002 season when Sam was born. He carries on a rich family tradition with his uncle Chris having also played for the Roosters having come through at the Brisbane Broncos with Ben and brother Shane.

Walker will make his much-anticipated NRL debut after being named at halfback alongside Drew Hutchison, having impressed for North Sydney in the first few rounds of the Knock On Effect NSW Cup. 

Sam’s dad joined the Rhinos from the merged club of Northern Eagles at the end of 2001 and was set the near-impossible task of replacing Iestyn Harris, he had already been seen by Leeds fans when guesting for London Broncos as a teenager in 1995. Going back to parent club Brisbane, he came off the bench during their NRL Grand Final triumph in 1997. The eldest of three brothers who all played at the top level, he scored 279 points for the Eagles in 2001 before coming to Headingley.

However, he made an instant impression with a huge contribution on his debut as Leeds defeated reigning Champions and newly crowned World Champions Bradford Bulls at Valley Parade in the first round of the Challenge Cup.

Signing for Manly on his return – becoming the first player in the NRL to win a game during golden point extra time with a penalty – he later joined Souths with brother Shane; Chris having a notable spell with Catalans. He made a named for himself as an innovative coach alongside Shane with Ipswich Jets, joining the club in 2010 after they had finished last, the brothers famously told the club not to contract any new players and then took that squad into the finals in 2011.

The Jets would go on to make the finals each year, before winning the Intrust Super Cup, the NRL State Championship and the BRL with no NRL players other than the Jets’ own Matt Parcell and have never finished below eighth in the Walker era. He left the Jets at the end of 2019 to focus on his successful business.

From everyone at the Rhinos, best of luck Sam.