HE KNOWS he is going to get targeted – for a while at least – but Leeds Rhinos’ young full-back Jack Walker has no fears about taking on the challenge.
Walker, 18, produced a man-of-the-match performance in Rhinos’ opening Betfred Super League win at Warrington Wolves.
That was only his 13th first team game and he already owns a Grand Final winner’s ring and is in line to face Melbourne Storm – featuring the sport’s best full-back Billy Slater – in the World Club Challenge in 11 days’ time.
Rhinos have high hopes for the youngster, but his age and inexperience ensures opposing teams will put him under pressure, as Warrington did.
One of those kicks led to a late try – and a busted nose for Walker – but he expects to be challenged and reckons it is part of the job as a full-back.
“I got tested a couple of times with a few spiral bombs, but I coped well with it,” Walker said.
“That last one messed me up a bit and I was quite sore, but if teams target me, they target me.
“I am not really bothered, I will just get on with it.”
Walker was bare-headed in last week’s game, after wearing a scrum hat during all his previous appearances for Rhinos.
That was the legacy of an incident in 2013 when he suffered a fractured skull playing for Oulton Invaders under-14s.
Explaining his decision to dispense with the head gear, he admitted it was a “mental thing” and said: “I thought I’d give it a go and I felt all right with it.”
The 16-12 victory at Halliwell Jones Stadium – where they hadn’t won in any competition since 2011 – was a strong start to Rhinos’ title defence.
“I am over the moon with how the boys performed,” Walker said.
“It was a massive effort, particularly in defence.
“When times got tough on our goalline, everyone put the work in and we ground out the victory.”