GRAND FINAL winner Josh Walters has confirmed he is under contract to Leeds Rhinos and determined to be in the first team reckoning this year.
Walters, who scored a crucial try in the 2015 title decider, has been named in Rhinos’ squad for tomorrow’s second pre-season game at Doncaster.
His previous contract was due to expire last autumn, but he affirmed: “Last year I signed a new one-year deal.”
The 24-year-old had been linked with a move away from Rhinos, but said his mindset was “come into pre-season and see where I am at”.
He added: “I didn’t get to play on Boxing Day, which was disappointing, but we had a lot of people training, it’s a big squad and he [coach David Furner] was only allowed to name so many players.
“I have got to bide my time and wait for my chances, which is what I’ve done in the past, but I feel like I am in a lot better position than I have been for the past couple of years. I’ve had a good, solid pre-season and I’ve been speaking to Dave about what he wants from me.”
A spell on dual-registration with partner club Featherstone Rovers could be Walters’ best opportunity for match action at the start of the campaign.
He stressed: “If I have to go and play for Fev I will do that.
“I have played a lot of games there and at the end of the day you just want to play rugby. I want to make sure if I don’t play for Leeds this season I put myself in as good a position as I can for next season.”
Walters began last year outside the matchday squad, but went on to play 19 times for Rhinos, as well as three with Rovers.
“I know what situation I am in,” he said. “A lot of boys got injured last year and that provided me with an opportunity.
“That’s how you get your breaks sometimes, but I am not thinking about that, I am just thinking about the next time I get to play and making sure I am ready to step up when I do.”
Walters played his first game of the year last Saturday when he was among Rovers’ try scorers in a 20-14 Yorkshire Cup defeat at Dewsbury Rams.
“I felt I went all right,” he reflected. “I was playing in the centre which is something I haven’t done for a few years, but Fev were short in that position and I have been training there all pre-season, pretty much.
“We [Leeds] have been doing a lot of 13-on-13 stuff in training and I’ve been playing there and I’ve felt comfortable.
“I don’t think we got challenged much in terms of shapes, but doing everything else I felt like I got through a bit of work.”
Walters was not at Rovers’ opening pre-season game when they lost 56-0 to Castleford Tigers, but reckons they are making progress.
“I was training all last week with them and we reviewed it,” he said. “They all seemed to say it [the Rams game] was a step up. I think it was a game we probably should have won and on another day we probably would have won it, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.”
The free play rule has now been abolished, but shot clock will not be in use at tomorrow’s game.
Leeds Rhinos (at Doncaster): from L Briscoe, Donaldson, Dwyer, Golding, Johnson, McConnell, Mullally, Mustapha, Newman, Oledzki, Ormondroyd, Singleton, Smith, Spence, A Sutcliffe, Trout, Waite-Pullan, Walters, Whitton.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.