TEENAGE surprise package Josh Walters is reeling from the speed of his breakthrough into Leeds Rhinos’ senior team.
Walters scored his second try, in his fourth successive appearance, during Rhinos’ 32-31 win over Catalan Dragons.
He was hoping to retain his place in the squad today, when coach Brian McDermott names his initial 19 for the derby at Wakefield in two days’ time.
The 19-year-old forward revealed he has already achieved an ambition, by playing in the one-off yellow kit worn by Rhinos against Catalan.
“I am really pleased with how it is going,” said Walters. “I am just happy getting first-team games because it has come around so quickly, but tries are an added bonus.
“Just to be playing in a team like this, with such great players, is amazing.”
Walters, a student at Leeds Metropolitan University, worked part-time in the Rhinos club shop before breaking into the first team.
He said: “I knew pretty early – months ago – about the special kit coming out for the Catalan game.
“I thought I would love to play in that, but it is never going to happen – I might get to be 18th man if I play really well for the under-19s.
“To have played a few games before the Catalan one, it is a really good feeling and I am just grateful to be here. But I don’t just want to stay here, I want to push on and keep playing well.”
Walters joined Rhinos on trial last year from rugby union sister club Leeds Carnegie.
“I am learning all the time,” he said. “I am really grateful to Mac (coach Brian McDermott) and I have been working a lot with (under-19s coach) Chris Plume, looking at my clips and seeing what I can do better.
“Mac said to me they don’t want to do too much coaching, they just want me to go out there and run as fast as I can and as hard as I can.
“It is not a case of playing my normal game, because I don’t think I know what my normal game is yet!
“I have been playing for such a short time, I am just trying to make my tackles. I haven’t played that much at loose-forward, but the last two games I have played there.
“It is a lot simpler than back-row. We have got a focus on defence in the back-row, but at loose-forward it is just run and make your tackles.”
Of his touchdowns against Widnes and Catalan, Walters added: “That’s just an added bonus, especially in front of 13,000 on Sunday.
“It is amazing, it is not where I would have seen myself even three weeks ago, even making my debut I would not have seen myself scoring a try at Headingley.”
Rhinos have five more games before next month’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington, but Walters is not daring to dream about playing on such a big stage.
“I am taking one game at a time. A lot of the injured boys are coming back. I am happy to be here and I would like to stay here, but I can’t look too far ahead. I wasn’t expecting to get two games, so I will just take every week as it comes.”