Joining Wakefield Trinity Wildcats brought centre Jason Walton down to earth – and he could not be happier.
Walton was working as a scaffolder and on the point of rejoining Kingstone Press Championship outfit Batley Bulldogs when – out of the blue – Wildcats boss Brian Smith asked for a meeting.
After impressing in training he signed a one-year deal and –following two spells at Salford, one with Batley and another at London Broncos – he is determined to make his mark in Super League this season.
“It is good to be back in Super League,” Walton stressed. “I signed for three years at Salford, but I didn’t want to be sat on the sidelines for three years so I asked to leave so I could get some game time.
“I went to London and that didn’t really work out, but I knew I could play in Super League. I didn’t really want to play in the Championship.
“Wakefield have given me another chance and I want to show what I can really do. Hopefully I’ll get chance to do that.
“I have settled in well and all the lads are really good.”
Wakefield have been putting long hours in during pre-season, but Walton admitted his new life is “100 per cent” better than having to combine rugby with a full-time job.
“We have been training hard,” he said. “We are in at 6.30am every day so it’s tough – we start when it’s dark, we are having breakfast when it’s still dark and we don’t finish until 2.30-3pm.
“But when I was at Batley I was getting up at 7am to go to work, going home for half an hour after work and then going training. I was getting in at 9.30 most nights.
“It makes you appreciate it more. When you have been full-time and then you go back out of it and go back to work, you think ‘what have I had?’
“Now I am back in it, being full-time, I know it’s what I want to do. I am 25 now and I want to take my chance.”
Walton is convinced he has the tools to compete at the top level. He added: “When I played for Salford in Super League I played really well.
“I just need that chance with Wakefield. I want to play, I am not here to make the numbers up.
“I don’t mind playing back-row or centre, or coming off the bench, so hopefully I will get some games. I don’t want to be sat on the sidelines.
“That’s my aim, to get a run of games in.”
As for Wildcats’ chances, Walton reckons a place in the Super-8s – rather than the Qualifiers – is a realistic goal.
He said: “We have got a big squad this year and there’s competition for places.
“The halves are working really well together, we’ve got a full new squad, near enough and I think we’ll do really well. I think we’ll be pushing for the top-eight, I really think we can do that.”