Leeds Rhinos full-back Jack Walker sees light at end of injury tunnel
Leeds Rhinos full-back Jack Walker will take a significant step on the road to recovery next week.
Walker was in blistering form at the start of last year, before suffering a foot injury - including three fractures - against Warrington Wolves on February 28.
He made a playing comeback in September and underwent successful shoulder surgery during the off-season, but was left “gutted” when his foot injury flared up again three months ago, potentially ruling him out of the entire 2021 campaign.
It has been a frustrating time for the talented 21-year-old, who made a try-scoring debut in 2017 and was a Grand Final winner that season, but he revealed light is now beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel.
Walker was on crutches for two months and has been in a protective boot for the last five weeks, but that will be removed in seven days’ time, allowing him to step up preparations for an eventual return to training and playing.
“Then I can start cracking on with some solid rehab’, strengthening my ankle and my calf - the standard things to start with, then we can build into jogging and maybe running,” Walker said.
“I just want to get the boot off, I am sick of it.”
After what he went through last year, the pre-season setback was a painful blow, but Walker has remained upbeat following the initial shock and physically - other than the injured foot - he feels in good shape.
“I am mentally in a very good place,” he stated.
“I am the strongest I’ve ever been and that’s the main thing really.
“I want to get stronger and bigger so I don’t get injured again.
“It is another opportunity to build on something else and I reckon when I’m back I’ll be miles better than I’ve ever been - stronger, faster, fitter.
“I’ll get to work with Longy [assistant-coach Sean Long] as well, which I am looking forward to.”
Team boss Richard Agar is resigned to Walker being sidelined for the whole campaign, but the player confirmed there is a slight chance of him getting on the field in the final stages of this year - though he will not rush back before he is fully ready.
Walker said: “This isn’t an ordinary injury, it’s really all on how it feels.
“If it feels really good and I am smashing my rehab’ and everything’s going really well, then I could potentially maybe play a couple of games at the end of the season.
“Realistically, what the specialist and the physios have told me is it’s probably going to be next year, but as of now it feels really good, miles better than it did before.”
Walker played six times after his injury last year, including a two-try performance in a home win over Hull, but admitted he never felt comfortable.
“It’s hard to describe, but it didn’t feel like the other foot,” he recalled.
“I just thought it’s a big injury and it’ll take some getting used to and it’ll start to feel the same once I start playing games, but it just never really got back to it.
“I had the off-season, took some time off it because it was obviously still sore and then when I came back into pre-season it was still sore.
“I went for a scan and they said I’ve got arthritis in my foot, because the bones were rubbing against each other.
“It’s not a common injury, it’s just one of those things.”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.