Yorkshire-born Sydney Roosters star Sam Walker sounded out over England World Cup move ex-Leeds Rhinos star dad Ben Walker says

Leeds-born NRL wonderkid Sam Walker has been sounded out about playing for England in the World Cup - but his ex-Rhinos star dad insists he is Aussie through and through.

By Peter Smith
Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 8:14 am

Walker, 19, enjoyed one of the best debut seasons in NRL history in 2021, making 21 appearances for Sydney Roosters and being named Dally M rookie of the year.

The scrum-half was born in Leeds during his father Ben’s single season with Rhinos and is rated as one of the sport’s most exciting young talents.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Ben Walker - who scored 286 points, from 12 tries and 119 goals, for Leeds in 2002 - revealed Sam’s form has not gone unnoticed by England.

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Ben Walker scores for Leeds in a Challenge Cup win over Wakefield in 2002. Picture by Steve Riding.

“You’d have a very, very hard time to get him out of here,” Walker said.

“I think his uncles and grandparents would meet him at the airport and stop him flying over there.

“He is very much an Aussie, but somebody actually asked him if he could play in the World Cup for England.

“I am not sure who, but someone mentioned it at the end of the year.

Leeds-born Sam Walker in action for Sydney Roosters. Picture by Getty Images.

“He was born over there and he will have an English passport, but I think that will be where he ends - and he might cause a bit of havoc for the Pommies at some stage, I reckon, playing for Australia.”

Sam entered the world at Leeds General Infirmary and Ben added: “He loves the fact he was born over there.

“He’s well aware of it, I think he is pretty chuffed he was born there, it is a bit of a talking point for family and friends.”

Sam was born into a rugby league family. As well as his dad, his uncles Shane and Chris also played at the top level in Australia and the latter had a stint in Super League with Catalans Dragons.

Ben Walker as he looks today.

Of the teenager’s rapid rise last year, Ben said: “He was really good. He moved out of home when he was 17 and moved to Sydney and last year he played 21 games in his debut year, which is unheard of over here.

“I honestly don’t know of any other player who’s played that many in their first year. For him to play that many and get the Dally M rookie of the year, that was huge.

“He is going good, he’s a really good boy and we are very proud of him.”

Ben, a stand-off who joined Leeds from Northern Eagles, said he has “heaps of memories” from his time at the club. He recalled: “It is a special place, I loved it.

Ben and Kylie Walker pictured with newborn son Sam in 2002. Picture by Streve Riding.

“Playing for Rhinos was awesome, I remember beating Bradford in the first round of the Challenge Cup and that was huge.

“They were a really good side, we played at Bradford, it was a full house and that was really good fun.

“Just playing at Leeds was good, at Headingley. We had a great time, we only had a year there - we had a two-year deal and cut it short because I really wanted to get home and play back at Manly, but we thoroughly enjoyed it - and we got a Yorkshire baby.”

Though it is 20 years since he wore blue and amber, Walker has kept in touch with Rhinos’ fortunes and revealed he played a part in Matt Parcell - a member of the 2017 Super League Dream Team and Grand Final winner that season - to Leeds.

Ben and his brother Shane had a long spell as joint-coaches of Queensland Cup side Ipswich Jets, where Parcell began his career.

“I was kind of influential in him going to Leeds,” Ben said.

“He had a few offers to go over to England and Leeds was one of them.

“I am really good mates with him, he asked about Leeds and I gave them a big rap, to make sure he went there rather than anywhere else.

“I am glad he went there because he won a Super League. He was awesome, I got up to watch the final - it was a thrill to watch him play.

“Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire played in that game and they came through when I was at Leeds so it was a huge thrill to see those boys play with Matt.

“It is tragic with Rob [who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019].

“He was a star of a player. When Sam was born, Rob and his wife Lindsey used to come round our place and have dinner before games.

“It is horrible to see it. He is a champion fella.”

Walker - who is a real estate agent in Townsville, Queensland - will be attending Parcell’s wedding in Italy later this year and hopes to make a detour to visit old haunts in Leeds, including Headingley Stadium.

“We went for a couple of NRL jobs and missed out,” he said of he and Shane’s time after Ipswich Jets.

“We have both got pretty good businesses so we are busy doing them and we’ve both got four kids each.

“Coaching has been put on the back burner; if we got a job we would, but we might be coaching in the World Cup.

“I won’t say who with, but we have been approached to coach a team, which would be pretty cool.”