CROSS-CODE ROOKIE Josh Walters says he isn’t daring to dream about another Challenge Cup appearance.
Walters made his Leeds Rhinos debut in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Leigh Centurions last month and has missed just one of their past eight matches.
Coach Brian McDermott has made it clear Walters is one of the first players he will look to if injuries strike and that could put the 19-year-old in contention for a place in the semi-final side to face Warrington Wolves a week on Saturday.
With just two weeks between the semi-final and final, Walters has broken into the first team at the right time, but he insists he is taking it game by game.
“I am not looking too far into the future,” Walters stressed.
“I am just looking ahead to Bradford on Friday, whether I am playing in the under-19s or the first team.
“I am just enjoying being part of it, it is surreal – to be named in the starting pack with JP [Jamie Peacock], Kylie Leuluai, Paul Aiton, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Carl Ablett, like last week, is absolutely unbelievable.”
The former Leeds Carnegie rugby union player was recalled for last Friday’s win at Salford after scoring a hat-trick for the under-19s against Castleford the previous week. McDermott will name his initial 19-man squad for Friday’s derby against Bradford Bulls this afternoon and Walters is waiting to hear if he will be in the senior side, or the academy curtain-raiser.
“I think playing in the under-19s again was good for me,” he said of his appearance for the reserve grade two weeks ago.
“I went back to the back-row as well and I started in the back-row against Salford, so that was good.
“It was good to get back with the team mates I’ve been through the whole year with and it was chance to freshen me up.
“I wasn’t upset about losing my place. I was in the squad for the Castleford game, but we had a few boys back and I am new to the game and I’m only young.
“From my point of view, I only expected to play against Leigh.
“To have played seven games, it is surreal. I am not too disheartened by not playing week-in and week-out.”
Of the difference between the academy and first team, Walters said: “The players you are playing against aren’t as big in the 19s.
“It helps me take on more of a leadership role and I know what I am doing a bit more going back to that level.
“It was good to play in the first team last week, they are the games you want to be playing in.
“I wasn’t too happy with my first spell, but going back on in the second half, Mac showed faith in me.
“Going back out there and being part of that win, when you hear the final hooter go it is a great feeling.
“That was probably the best win I’ve been involved with. They have dangerous players all over the field, people like Rangi Chase and the way we had to tough it out was really impressive.
“We are building towards the semi-final and the run-in to end of the season.”