Leeds Rhinos ace Walker back up and running

A six-month injury could cost Leeds Rhinos full-back Jack Walker only one game.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 5:45 am

Walker suffered serious damage to a foot during Rhinos’ 36-0 thrashing of Warrington Wolves on February 28.

He tried to play on, but had to be substituted - with half-back/hooker Richie Myler taking over at full-back - and missed the big home win over Toronto Wolfpack six days later.

But Rhinos’ visit to Catalans Dragons the following week was postponed and there has been no rugby league played in this country since that weekend because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Jack Walker, centre, celebrates his try agianst Warrington with Ash Handley, left and Luke Gale. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Walker has undergone surgery twice and been virtually housebound for most of the sport’s layoff, but is now on the mend, beginning to step up training and hopeful of being available for selection when Rhinos next take to the field.

“I had a second operation about two weeks ago, just to get the screw out of my foot,” said the 20-year-old. “I did my first fitness session last week and that went well, so I am flying.”

Though a date has yet to be confirmed, Betfred Super League is expected to return on August 16, with teams having matches in hand - including Rhinos - returning to action from the start of the month. In rugby terms, the opportunity for injured players to recover has been one of the few positives from a tough situation.

“Even if it’s July, I should be pretty much back,” Walker said. “Another three or four weeks and I reckon I will be fully running and doing everything as normal, so it’s pretty good.

Jack Walker starred for Rhinos in the 2017 Grand Final against Castleford Tigers. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“The timing has been perfect for me, to be fair. I only missed the Toronto game and that was it then, I haven’t missed any more games so it has worked out all right for me.”

Walker was in impressive form before the injury, having played in Rhinos’ opening four games and scored three tries. He said: “I snapped the Lisfranc ligament in my foot - which holds two of your metatarsals together - and I had three fractures, all in the same foot.

“My toes were pointed to the floor and I think it was Gareth Widdop fell on my heel and basically my foot just bent in half. It could have been a lot worse, but that’s what happened.

“It was frustrating, I thought I was having a pretty decent game against Warrington. I scored early doors and was going good, but it’s just my luck!”

Jack Walker's three tries so far in 2020 included this effort against Salford Red Devils. Picture by Steve Riding.

Walker scored a hat-trick on his debut, aged 17, for Leeds in a 2017 Challenge Cup tie against Doncaster, just three years after suffering a fractured skull playing for Oulton Invaders under-14s.

He was a Grand Final winner at the end of his first season in Rhinos’ senior squad and played for England Knights in 2018, but missed their game against Jamaica at Emerald Headingley last year because of a shoulder injury.

“I am feeling pretty confident,” he said of his latest recovery.

“I think I am going in the right direction.

“I can’t wait to get back, I am fed up of just being sat at home all the time.”

Lockdown has been tough for Walker, who recalled: “I had my operation at the start of March and I had to quarantine for two weeks leading up to the operation, to make sure I didn’t have coronavirus.

“I had a pot on for six weeks and then I had a boot on; I had my second operation and I had to isolate again.

“I have been inside for a good two and a half-three months, which is a killer.

“It has been frustrating, but I went for my first bike ride last week and it was good to just get out of the house.”

Players at professional clubs who have been placed on furlough are not allowed to train together, but Walker said Leeds’ squad have been staying in touch and maintaining morale.

“I play a fair bit of PS4 with a few of the boys and we have been keeping in contact,” he confirmed.

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