I was talking last week to Alex Walmsley about his Rugby League career from the early days as he looks forward to his testimonial game for St Helens against Leigh Centurions at the Totally Wicked Stadium this Friday night.
Alex is an unusual player these days in one important sense.
Unlike most players, especially at St Helens he didn’t come through a professional Academy, but instead played for a community club, Dewsbury Celtic, as a youngster and stopped playing Rugby League when that club’s Under-16s team was disbanded.
“I was a million miles away at 15 or 16. I just progressed at Dewsbury Celtic, at under-15s the team folded and I stopped playing for a couple of years,” he said.
But then, fortunately for all of us, the Under-18s team at Dewsbury Celtic was re-formed and Alex was persuaded to join it.
“I had a year at under-18s and that was my route,” he said.
“Before that I wasn’t even playing. I was very overweight as a young lad, when I stopped playing, just playing a bit of badminton.
“Paul Heaton (of Dewsbury Celtic) got the under-18s playing again and without him I would be very surprised if I would ever have got back to playing rugby.
“Instead of trying to become a full-time player, which would have been impossible because I wasn’t good enough at that time, I went to university on a quantity surveying degree.
“Once this year is out of the way, I’m going to look beyond playing.
“I have my degree, which shows a level of competence, so I think I am quite employable.
“I was offered a job as a quantity surveyor with a firm in Wakefield the week before I started with St Helens.
“At the interview for that job, I told him that I had missed the boat and full-time rugby wasn’t going to be an option. If part-time rugby had interfered with quantity surveying, I decided then that I would stop playing.
“But then, when St Helens offered me a contract, I had to tell him that I wouldn’t be taking the job. That wasn’t an easy call to make, but it’s why I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on.”
And the moral of the story is that it’s never too late to catch the eye of a major club.
I’m delighted that Alex managed to do so.
I hope all the St Helens fans will turn out on Friday night to support him.
It’s the least he deserves.
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