Leeds Rhinos' Jack Walker relishing clean slate after tough 2020

A new year means a fresh start for Leeds Rhinos full-back Jack Walker.

Tuesday, 12th January 2021, 6:00 am

The 21-year-old has pledged to get back to his best this season after a fractured foot, suffered against Warrington Wolves 11 months ago, wrecked his 2020 campaign.

That injury was operated on during the coronavirus lockdown and he went back under the knife - this time to repair a damaged shoulder - in the off-season, so is due some good fortune this year.

“Obviously 2020 wasn’t a great year for anyone,” Walker reflected.

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Jack Walker in his comeback game against Catalans Dragons last year. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I had my foot operated on and then at the end of the season had my shoulder operated on so it wasn’t a great year for me, but obviously 2021 is a new year and I’ll see if I can get back on track.”

Walker was named in Rhinos’ initial 21-man squad for Rhinos’ Coral Challenge Cup win over Salford Red Devils in October, but did not make the final 17.

His stand-in, Richie Myler, was named man of the match and Walker admitted: “It was tough having to watch Richie Myler in my position playing in the Challenge Cup and stuff.

“I think that is going to give me motivation so, if I do get injured and someone else is in my spot, I can give Rich [Agar, Rhinos’ coach] confidence to put me straight back in.”

Jack Walker is working on his rehab in the gym following shoulder surgery. Picture by Phil Daly.

Myler’s form at full-back was an unexpected bonus for Rhinos after he came off the bench to replace Walker against Warrington and - as tough as it was to miss out - Walker stressed he had no complaints over Agar’s selection decision.

He said: “Richie Myler was arguably the best full-back in the comp’ last year.

“Taking him out would have been a pretty big call, the whole team was playing well and there wasn’t much I could have done really.

“I came back and made a couple of mistakes in the Hull game [nine days before the Cup final], it was nice to get over for a couple of tries, but obviously it wasn’t good enough.

“It is a clean slate now, I just need to have a big pre-season and then go again.”

The pectoral muscle injury suffered by Rhinos captain Luke Gale at the start of pre-season last week has made Walker’s recovery even more important.

His availability at full-back would allow Myler to move into the halves, in place of Gale, when Betfred Super League begins in two months’ time.

“If all goes well I should be back for the first game, but I have said that in previous times,” Walker said.

“I don’t want to come back too early, I think I did that with my foot - it was the Challenge Cup I was rushing back for.

“I am going to make sure when I come back I can play at 100 per cent, instead of 80-90 per cent.”

He added: “Things are looking good, I have got my range of movement back already so it is going pretty well.

“There’s a lot of people my own age doing rehab’ - Callum McClelland, Harry Newman, Alex Sutcliffe - so it’s a good environment to be in, we have a laugh and a joke and we knuckle down when needed.

“I am looking forward to the next couple of months and then getting back into it with the team.”

Of his surgery, Walker confirmed: “I was supposed to get my left shoulder done straight after my right, but I didn’t get my Covid test results back in time, there was loads of messing about and I ended up just getting my right one done.

“I don’t know what will happen [about the left shoulder] at the moment, I’ll probably see how it goes through the season and if it gives me any bother I’ll probably get it done at the end of next season.”

Walker described his on-going shoulder problems as “a pain”. He said: “I don’t know when it started, I did my right shoulder last year and had it operated on, then did exactly the same thing through the season and had to have it operated on again.

“I haven’t had any luck with them.”

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