Sport is full of wonderful stories, in particular tales of rags to riches. It’s what the world is all about, and there’s nothing better than a tale of someone who has made it from the very bottom right to the top.
And in Rugby League, there’s a wonderful example of that being played out in front of our very eyes on a weekly basis. Even though Alex Walmsley hasn’t quite reached ‘the top’ (international Rugby League being the pinnacle, you would argue), he’s surely not far from ascending to the top of that particular summit.
Four years ago, Walmsley was playing for Dewsbury Celtic and Leeds Met Carnegie. He was the National Conference League player of the year in that season, before a move into semi-professional rugby soon followed.
Batley spotted his obvious talent, and it took only one season before Super League clubs came calling for Walmsley’s services, with St Helens the club that eventually landed his signature. It was a swift and deserved rise to prominence, but nobody could have foreseen Walmsley progressing as far as he has in such a short space of time.
Such were his performances last year, missing out on an England call-up seemed to be a bit of a shock to some, especially the Saints fans who had seen him week in, week out.
This year though, missing out on England selection when he’s in this form would be nothing short of a crime.
After the first six weeks of the season, it’s interesting to think about who the standout players have been in the competition. Terry Campese has definitely caught the eye for Hull Kingston Rovers, whilst the performances of Rangi Chase have been equally as impressive.
However, there’s no doubting that Walmsley ranks very much amongst the elite of Super League’s best after some phenomenal performances early on this season.
The Saints look a much better and calmer side when Walmsley is on the field, and he’s rapidly developed from an impact prop who produces fleeting spells, into a forward who is now a lynchpin of the St Helens pack.
The statistics back up Walmsley’s influence on the side, too. Take a look at the players who have made the most metres in Super League this season. At the time of writing, Walmsley is already 153 points clear of his nearest rival, which is another Saints player in Atelea Vea. 926 metres in just six matches is eye-watering, and it’s the kind of form that makes you an automatic when it comes to England honours.
There’s more though. League Express’ famous Albert Goldthorpe Medal, an award which according to some critics, simply rewards half-backs and creative influences, has a very notable name at the top of the list: Alex Walmsley.
Without giving too much away for this Monday’s paper, Walmsley notched more Goldthorpe points during the 32-24 win against Warrington. Admittedly it is rare for a forward to be streaking clear in our Albert Goldthorpe rankings – but that just underlines what a special talent Alex Walmsley is.
The end game here is clearly international selection. There’s no way Steve McNamara can ignore Walmsley after some dominant and inspiring performances in the front row for the Saints this year.
At the moment, Walmsley is the best prop in Super League. Not bad for a lad who was slugging it out for Dewsbury Celtic a few years ago.