FOUR APPEARANCES, three starts, two man-of-the-match awards.
That’s the impressive statistic behind teenage full-back Jack Walker’s introduction to the Leeds Rhinos first team.
Walker, 17, burst onto the scene with a hat-trick in Rhinos’ Ladbrokes Challenge Cup win over Doncaster in April and made his Betfred Super League debut when Leeds lost to Huddersfield Giants the following week.
He was a substitute in the Cup quarter-final win over Featherstone Rovers earlier this month, then an unused replacement in last week’s defeat to league leaders Castleford Tigers.
With No 1 Ashton Golding still sidelined by a hamstring problem, Walker took over as last line of defence against St Helens two days ago and impressed the 13,000 crowd – and watching television viewers – with an outstanding all-round display, including try-saving tackles on Ryan Morgan and James Roby in the first half.
The contrast to six days earlier was huge and Walker summed up his feelings afterwards in one word: “brilliant”.
Reflecting on a win which boosted Leeds’ hopes of finishing the regular season in runners-up spot, he said: “To get the two points was massive for us.
“We were in some dark places at times and our forwards were struggling a little bit so the boys did well and dug deep to get two points.
“Getting the win was important and we can build now and try go get two points at Salford next Sunday, but we’ll have to bring our A game.”
Walker – who wears a head guard as protection after suffering a fractured skull playing youth rugby for Oulton – was picked out as a possible weakness by Saints’ kickers, but stood up to the challenge. Of his own performance, he said: “I thought I did well under the high ball.
“I felt comfortable, I was building in confidence every time I caught it and I grew through the game.
“Obviously, they were going to target a young lad at full-back and they did that, but I felt I dealt with that quite well.”
Walker also looked a threat going forward and admitted he was keen to stake a claim after his 80 minutes on the bench against Tigers.
He continued: “I had to go on and make a statement really and try and get that position for the Salford game.”
Walker is not yet a member of Rhinos’ senior squad and has Golding – a veteran of 20 – ahead of him in the queue for the full-back role.
“Ashton’s a quality player and I have to do well to try and get in front of him, but I’ll keep working hard and try and get that No 1 shirt,” he pledged.