Leeds Rhinos' Sam Walters aiming for recall v Huddersfield Giants - youngster keen to 'keep driving forward' in Super League
Rising star Sam Walters reckons he could feel happy with the way things have gone for him personally at Leeds Rhinos so far this year - but he is determined not to be.
Walters made successive starts against St Helens and Wigan Warriors, but was left out of the side which lost to Hull KR last weekend.
That came on the day Rhinos announced the 20-year-old has signed a 12-month contract extension, keeping him at the club until the end of 2023.
The new deal was recognition of how highly Rhinos rate the Liverpool-born youngster, who joined them from Widnes Vikings in 2019.
“That’s something I wanted at the start of the year,” the former England academy player confirmed of his enhanced terms.
“To get it so soon, I was delighted.”
But he stressed: “I think for me now it is just about keeping my foot on the pedal and keeping pushing for places.
“I need to keep competing with Rhyse [Martin] and Alex [Mellor] every week, or even in the middle if Rich [Agar. Rhinos’ coach] needs me there and just not being happy with where I am at at the moment, keep driving forward.”
Realistically, two starts - against the game’s leading sides - is more than Walters could have hoped for at this stage of the campaign.
Having played four times last year, he is now a regular in Leeds’ initial 21-man squad, but the next step is to be a fixture in the matchday 17.
“From a personal point of view, it’s going great and I am really happy with the position I am in at the moment,” he admitted.
“But the big picture is the team and I think when there’s a few personnel out, when I do step up it is important I am driving the standards and not letting it slip, but because I am a kid playing.
“I think I’ve done that, I found it difficult against Saints - not having had much game time - but I got a bit of confidence from getting that start and I thought I had a good game against Wigan.”
Players on Rhinos’ casualty list are beginning to return and Walters was one of three youngsters - along with Jarrod O’Connor and Morgan Gannon - to drop out last week, as Agar opted to bring some experience back into the side and move Martin and Mellor from the backs into their specialist second-row roles.
Walters stressed he had no complaints over that decision and backed Rhinos to bounce back quickly from their 26-6 defeat.
“I think Friday was a bit of a blip in our performances,” he said of the loss at Hull College, Craven Park
“Against Saints and Wigan they were both solid performances, we just struggled in attack a bit.
“I think Friday was a one off and hopefully we’ll work hard this week and put it right against Huddersfield.”
Giants beat Leeds in a pre-season game last month, but haven’t won in Betfred Super League this year, though they did pick up a Challenge Cup win over Leigh Centurions.
With Leeds having a 25 per cent win percentage from four games, Walters insisted the squad are aware they need to start picking up some victories.
“It’s important now,” he said.
“If you look at the top of the league, there’s four teams unbeaten.
“That’s our only competition now this year and it’s what we want to be winning - we want to be getting in the top-four and pushing for the Grand Final.”
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