Eye for goal won’t keep Leeds Chiefs’ Harrison Walker from focusing on No 1 target

HARRISON WALKER has grown up trying to stop other people from scoring goals – but, when handed the opportunity, the truth is he loves nothing more than finding the net himself.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 6:45 am
Harrison walker, warming up as back-up netminder for Leeds Chiefs in Blackburn last month. Picture courtesy of Podium Prints.

The 17-year-old was signed by Leeds Chiefs’ player-coach Sam Zajac in the summer on a two-way contract, effectively making him the NIHL National club’s third-choice goalie behind No 1 Sam Gospel and back-up Miles Finney.

It means he trains with the Chiefs every week, while still retaining his position as No 1 netminder for Blackburn Hawks, who play a level below in NIHL North One. But he also remains registered with parent club Bradford Bulldogs and it is for them on a couple of occasions in recent weeks where he has made a name for himself – but not between the pipes.

A shortage of available bodies for Bulldogs’ coach Andy Brown’s NIHL North Two team meant the teenager was required to play out – on both occasions it just happened to be against the Hawks’s 2nd team.

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MAN BEHIND THE MASK: Harrison Walker, goaltender and hot-shot forward. Picture courtesy of Podium Prints.

In the first game between the two back in October in Bradford, Walker banged in FIVE goals in a 12-3 victory.

Then, a few weeks later in Blackburn, having just finished his stint as back-up to Finney in the Chiefs’ 6-2 ‘home’ loss against Sheffield Steeldogs, he quickly changed into his Bradford strip to smash in SEVEN against the Hawks in a somewhat one-sided 20-0 triumph.

But despite his eye for goal, it is in goal that Walker remains determined to continue along the path of becoming a top netminder, hopefully following in Gospel’s footsteps one day as the Chiefs’ No 1.

“I’ve just played the two games out for Bradford and it just so happened that they were against Blackburn’s second team,” said Walker.

FORWARD THINKING: Harrison Walker has played as a forward twice for Bradford this season, scoring 12 goals. Picture courtesy of Podium Prints.

“It was a lot of fun, although some of the Blackburn players weren’t too happy about it.

“But goalie is what I do – my dad was a goalie too and played for Bradford – playing out for those two games was just a bit of fun, but I did really enjoy it.

“I’m really enjoying being around the Chiefs, it is why I wanted to get in there, learn from Sammy (Gospel) and I’m doing that as he coaches me on Wednesdays.

“The ultimate goal is to get up there and be like him – he should be in the Elite League and I’m sure he will one day soon.”

DAY JOB: Harrison Walker, in action for Blackburn hawks earlier this season. Picture courtesy of Podium Prints.

Having just come off the ice himself, Chiefs’ boss Zajac was around to watch most of the second game Walker starred in against the Hawks and was suitably impressed, although the main reason he signed the youngster up in the summer remains clear.

“Harrison’s a great kid, he’s got a bright future as a goaltender and if he does one day want to change position then obviously the talent is there,” said Zajac.

“But he’s got a lot of talent in terms of being a goalie and has a very good head on his shoulders for somebody that young. All the things he said to me when I spoke to him in the summer really impressed me – he was solely interested in getting ice time and getting the chance to develop.

“We agreed that the best thing for his development was to practice with us when he’s available but get as much ice time as he can with Blackburn.

ON TARGET: Harrison Walker scores one of his FIVE goals for Bradford against Blackburn 2 earlier this season. Picture courtesy of Podium Prints.

“And it has worked out well for everyone so far. Blackburn get to keep their No 1 goaltender and he gets a lot of minutes and he also gets to our practices when he can and we can call on him too when he’s needed.

“So we’re really happy with the arrangement and he has fitted in really well since he came on board.”