Leeds Rhinos: Full-back Jack Walker well down road to recovery from injury
FULL-BACK JACK Walker is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a shoulder operation and expects to be available for Leeds Rhinos’ pre-season matches.
Walker, 20, was nominated for Betfred Super League’s young player of the year award last season, despite struggling with a damaged shoulder for most of the campaign.
The injury forced him to pull out of the England Knights squad ahead of their one-off Test against Jamaica at Emerald Headingley last month, but he is now in his third week of pre-season training with Rhinos and feeling good.
“I’m just coming back from my shoulder op’ and that’s going really well, I am well on track,” Walker confirmed.
He said: “It is about three or four months’ recovery and I am pretty much doing everything after two months.
“Everything is going well with that, I am doing little bits of re-hab’ in the gym and getting stronger every day.”
Leeds begin their pre-season fixtures at home to Wakefield Trinity in the traditional Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge on December 26 and kick-off in Super League when Hull visit Headingley on February 2.
Asked if he will be available for the start of the league season, Walker insisted: “Easily.
“I am hoping I’ll be all right for Boxing Day.”
A Grand Final winner in 2017, his debut season, Walker scored eight tries in 22 games for Rhinos during 2019 and was shortlisted for the young player accolade along with team-mate Harry Newman, Castleford’s Jake Trueman, Wigan Warriors’ Morgan Smithies and eventual winner, Matty Lees, of St Helens.
Despite some impressive performances, Walker was never fully fit following his shoulder injury and underwent surgery after Leeds’ final game of the campaign, against Warrington Wolves two months ago. Missing out on another England Knights cap, after touring Papua New Guinea last year, was a blow, but Walker stressed: “I had to get my shoulder right.
“I played half the season with a dislocated ac [acromioclavicular joint] and loads of other things wrong with it so I thought I had to get that set for the start of the season and then I can have a big year.
“I did it at Hull KR [in April] and it bothered me all year.
“I think I had four weeks out with it and then I was getting jabbed every game just to stop the pain. Every tackle I went into it was hurting and sometimes I was struggling to pass, so I just had to numb it.”
With the damage now repaired Walker is relishing the prospect of playing pain-free next term – and linking up with star half-back signing Luke Gale.
“I am really looking forward to next year,” he said.
“We’ve got a new half, Galey, and a new forward in Alex Mellor and I’m looking forward to playing with them.”
Walker said Rhinos have yet to begin work on new combinations.
“We’ve just been focusing on skill and obviously I am still building my shoulder up,” he stated.
“But that will come, like last season it will take time to build combinations.
“I am really looking forward to playing with Galey. You see some of the stuff he does in training; it’s unbelievable.
“He is a class player.”