'A good nucleus and more coming through': Leeds Rhinos' young pack has huge potential says Sam Walters
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Walters already has a Grand Final appearance under his belt at 22, as does Jarrod O’Connor who is a year younger.
Walters and Holroyd were the starting props against Catalans Dragons last Saturday, with O’Connor, McDonnell and Smith also in the pack and Johnson on the bench.
Oledzki, already a two-time Leeds player of the year, will return from injury at Hull KR on Friday and Gannon is recovering from a head knock.
Among those waiting in the wings are 19-year-olds Leon Ruan and Toby Warren who have yet to play a competitive game for Rhinos’ first team.
Walters said: “There’s heaps of us my age or close to it so we’ve got a good nucleus here, I think.
“Hopefully we can build on [last week’s] performance and us young boys can get some good minutes.
“It’s just about getting that confidence and gelling together as young boys. You look at the reserves and the way they play, that’s a young team as well and I think some of them will start coming through soon.”
Walters was signed from Widnes Vikings’ academy as a back-rower, but has been used at prop by coach Rohan Smith this year.
“I’ll play anywhere,” he insisted. “I play in the middle and I’ve got Cam [Smith] next to me who has good hands and he allows me to explore my game and get me some one-on-ones.
“I am enjoying playing in the middle. I think last year I was just an up and down player, but this year I think I’ve got more to my game with the structure we’re playing with and obviously that gives me confidence.”
With Rhinos close to full-strength, Walters isn’t taking his place in the side for granted. He was left out of the team which lost at Castleford Tigers two weeks ago and stressed: “I am just taking it game by game and week by week.
“I am trying to tweak little bits of my game and improve every week. We’ve got a really good squad this year and a lot of competition for places so it’s important we push each other.”
He added: “I am pleased with getting back in the starting lineup. I think Tommy [Holroyd] and I started [last week’s] game with a good impact and it allowed for Sam [Lisone] and Justin [Sangare] to come off the bench and do their thing. I think we had a good balance.”
This is a big season for Walters who is out of contract at the end of it. He said: “It is still early days in the season, I am going to wait until the back end of the year and let my footy do the talking and my agent will sort it out with the club.”
But he is happy at Leeds. He went on: “It’s a good place, I moved up from Widnes a couple of years ago and I love it, it’s a vibrant place to live.”
As a team, Rhinos will be looking to build on last week’s second-half, which saw them wipe out a 22-8 deficit to win 32-22, when they visit Hull KR.
Consistency is the big aim now and Walters said: “I think the belief’s there, it’s just concentration, I think.
“We have got the skill and ability to beat anyone in the comp, as we’ve shown and it’s just about building on last week’s performance.
“As a team we don;t really look at the scoreboard or the situation, we just focus on the next play.”