ROOKIE FORWARD Josh Walters has agreed a new three-year contract with Leeds Rhinos.
Walters is set to make his fifth successive appearance for Rhinos in tonight’s First Utility Super League derby at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
The 19-year-old – who has scored tries in successive games, against Widnes Vikings and Catalan Dragons, has emerged as one of the club’s brightest prospects since crossing codes from Leeds Carnegie last summer.
“It is fantastic to have agreed a new long term contract with the club,” Walters said.
“This was always going to be a big season for me with it being my final year in the under-19s and it is pleasing to have secured a new contract for the next few years.
“It was always a goal for me when I came over from Leeds Carnegie to earn a full-time contract, but I can’t believe how well things have worked out for me.”
Walters is originally from Guildford, in Surrey, but grew up in Northallerton, North Yorkshire.
He is studying for a Sports Marketing degree at Leeds Metropolitan University and had a part time job in Rhinos’ club shop before breaking into the senior team.
He added: “I think my run in the team has certainly helped the club decide on my future. Brian McDermott (Rhinos’ coach) spoke to me after my debut against Leigh and told me what he liked in my game and I have tried to stick to those areas in my performances since then.
“I don’t think it gets any easier with the more games you get under your belt, but you do feel more settled in your surroundings and I would say I am mentally more comfortable now running out in front of 15,000 people for a game. I still get nervous but having had a taste of the action, it only makes you want it even more.”
Wigan Warriors recently brought Joel Tomkins back from the 15-a-side game and Walters can see the attraction for some union players in switching codes.
“I heard a comment from Joel Tomkins saying he thought he was a better league player than a union one and I can definitely see his point of view there,” Walters said.
“My reason for switching to the Rhinos was because I felt I was more suited to league and it was my best opportunity to become a professional rugby player.
“Whether other young rugby union players will follow my example, I am not sure.
“Players do get an opportunity to play in the first team at a younger age in league because of the nature of both games, but I would hope anyone who does switch does it because they love playing rugby league and not just because they might be able to play first team rugby earlier in their career.”
McDermott said he has been impressed by Walters’ attitude and determination since he switched codes. Said the coach: “Josh has been superb over the last year and thoroughly deserves his new contract.
“You saw from his contribution last week when he came on, against a big, tough Catalan pack, that his attitude is first class and he really gave the team a lift.
“I am sure he will continue to develop and this is another great example how the management of the club are looking to secure the long term future of our club.”
Walters got his chance in the first team when Mitch Achurch suffered knee and ankle injuries during the defeat at Warrington Wolves in May.
Achurch made his comeback last week, but has been ruled out of tonight’s game due to a groin injury. Achurch admitted: “It has been really hard being out, when everyone was talking about Leeds being in a form slump.
“When I was starting every week we were going all right and we were on top of the world. To see the boys struggling a bit, it is hard to sit back and not be able to help. I don’t think we performed that well last weekend, but I thought Catalan played pretty well.
“Hopefully some of the boys can start sneaking back into the side now and we can start getting some form.
“To be sitting in behind St Helens is a bit of an injustice to us and we are going to chase them as long as we need to to get back on top. We are in a bit of a rough patch at the moment. We don’t deny it, we are aware of it and it’ll turn around.
“Once it does, hopefully we are in striking distance of top spot.
“We have got some players to come back in and we are taking a bit of confidence from that.”
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats from: Mathers, Owen, Ryan, Lyne, Riley, Sykes, T Smith, Anderson, McShane, Scruton, Gilmour, Tautai, Washbrook, Godinet, Moore, D Smith, Raleigh, Keinhorst, Jowitt.
Leeds Rhinos from: Jones-Bishop, T Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Sinfield, Leulaui, Aiton, Peacock, Delaney, Sutcliffe, Bailey, Singleton, Walters, S Ward, L Briscoe, R Ward, Minchella.
Referee: Matthew Thomason (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.