FITNESS-PERMITTING, Leeds Rhinos’ Grand Final side will virtually pick itself, but coach Brian McDermott has a decision to make at full-back.
Shooting Star Ashton Golding is Rhinos’ No1 and has made 22 appearances this term, but rookie Jack Walker was preferred for last Friday’s semi-final win over Hull.
Walker – who at 18 is three years younger than Golding –is in his first year in the senior team and has played 11 times, scoring five tries.
His performances this season have earned him a three-year full-time contract and playing in Saturday’s title decider against Castleford Tigers would cap a remarkable breakthrough year for Walker.
“It is massive for me,” he said of the prospect of an appearance at Old Trafford.
“Coming into Super League is a massive step up, with the speed of the game and a semi-final was even more of a step up.
“I can imagine the Grand Final is going to be even more than that.
“It is going to be very tough and it’s going to require a lot of mental toughness as well.
“I think we have got to be on our game, everyone’s got to bring their ‘A’ game to it because Cas are outstanding.”
Walker will be on tenterhooks until McDermott confirms his side.
“If I get picked I’ll be over the moon,” he said.
“But it’s down to Mac and I’ll just see what happens.”
Walker is relishing the experience, whether or not he makes the final 17.
“It is good to be around everyone,” he added.
“It is Danny [McGuire] and Rob’s [Burrow’s] last game and to be part of that is massive for me.”
Walker is Rhinos’ academy player of the year and described the few months since making his debut against Doncaster – in a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup win in April – as “mad”.
He said: “It has all come so quick, making my debut and it has all come on from there.
“Now to be in line for a Grand Final is huge for me.”
Walker had a taste of the Old Trafford atmosphere when he was a spectator – along with other academy players – at Leeds’ 2015 win over Wigan.
“Just walking out at Headingley – when the South Stand were here and everyone was chanting – was awesome.
“I can’t imagine what it’ll be like at Old Trafford.”