When his name was printed on the team sheet for last Thursday’s crucial Super League clash with St Helens, you would have forgiven the young man for struggling slightly with the vigorous pace of Super League at such a tender age. But that wasn’t the case, in fact far from it, as Walker produced one of the most impressive individual displays of the season as the Rhinos claimed a vital 24-22 victory.
Speaking on the game, Walker said: “I thought the team’s effort was very good at times, obviously, with a few blips as they made three or four clean-breaks in the first half. And when we were in good ball we didn’t execute what we practiced in training, so particularly in the first half that was poor and needs fixing up.”
Since scoring a 16-minute hat-trick on his debut against Doncaster in April, the pacey full-back has become a favourite at Headingley. Walker’s name was sung on numerous occasions last Thursday as the South Stand showed their appreciation for a performance far beyond his years. Despite his sudden rise to the top, Walker is keeping himself grounded but admitted it felt good to be recognised by the supporters.
“The fans are brilliant,” he said. “It just puts a massive smile on your face when you hear them singing your name, but I wouldn’t say I’m getting carried away or not staying grounded, because that’s when players get too big for their boots and lose focus on what’s important. It’s the start of my career and beginning of my journey, so there’s a long way to go (before I meet expectations).”
With such a great display, yet again, I wanted to know if he saw Ashton Golding’s current injury trouble as an opportunity to break into the team permanently. Golding himself has had an exceptional season, one that has earned him a long-term deal at the club, and Walker believes he needs to produce man-of-the-match performances every week to keep his place.
“I just need to keep working hard in training and producing man-of-the-match performances and I will keep getting a shot, however, I still have a lot to learn and improve on. I don’t really want to set aims or goals, but just to take each day as it comes and work hard day in and day out for the rest of the season to play as many first-grade games as possible.”
Such big performances have seen a host of clubs rumoured to be after Walker’s signature, Warrington Wolves being one of them. I asked him about this and where he sees his future.
“I don’t know where the Warrington rumours have come from but I love Leeds and it is a great club. At the moment I am keeping my options open due to the fact Ash Golding has signed a five-year deal at a young age, showing Ash is the future full-back at the club and has the number one jersey, however I want to play full-back as I see my full potential there.”