Jack Walker: From Academy rugby to the World Club Challenge in the space of a year

On February 9th 2017, Jack Walker was playing on the wing as Leeds Rhinos’ Academy defeated their St Helens counterparts.

It’s fair to say, just 373 days on from that date, that he could never have envisaged what would follow.

Even a first-team call-up may have felt like a far-cry at that point. But in just over a year he has established himself as Leeds’ first-choice fullback, been embroiled in a transfer saga and won a Grand Final.

It will all culminate on Friday, as the 18-year-old lines up in the World Club Challenge against an all-conquering Melbourne Storm featuring players Walker spent his childhood watching.

“Winning the Grand Final is one thing, coming and having a chance to win the World Club Challenge is a totally other thing.

“It’s hard to describe really, especially with these boys coming here, it’s a dream come true really.

“It’s incredible actually, it’s massive. I’m really looking forward to playing here. I just can’t wait to get out here.”

The man he goes toe-to-toe with is one Walker knows all too well. Few will argue that Billy Slater is one of the greatest of his generation. But Walker, a rather unassuming unflustered character, played down the importance of going up against him.

“I’m looking forward to it but he’s just another person in my eyes. He’s just another player I’ve got to play against, I’ll just do what I’ve got to do and play my game.”