The rugby league big time has inched a step closer for a highly rated 19-year-old player from Mansfield after he was snapped up by a semi-professional club.
Hooker Luke Walters, who has been playing for Sherwood Wolf Hunt, has signed a one-year contract for West Yorkshire outfit Keighley Cougars to be part of their reserves squad. And his career ambitions have been given another major boost after he was selected to represent Scotland in rugby league’s Student World Cup, to be held in Sydney, Australia this summer. He is currently studying at Leeds Beckett University.
“There is a lot of hard work to do, but my main aim by the end of this year is to be picked for Scotland’s first team and go on to play in the actual World Cup,” said Walters, who lives in Warsop Vale with proud mum and dad, Claire and Lee. “I would also like to play as a professional, hopefully in Australia where the sport is on a higher level than it is over here.”
Joining Cougars could be the break he needs. It certainly helps to overcome the disappointment he suffered last year when a spell with another semi-pro club, Featherstone Rovers, was cut short when they scrapped their reserves squad.
Cougars’ season in the Reserves Championship starts in March and will include matches against many of the sport’s big-name clubs, such as Warrington Wolves, Wigan Warriors, Hull and St Helens. If Walters impresses, he could step up to the club’s first team, who play in Kingston Press League One, which is the third tier of rugby league in this country, behind the Super League and the Kingston Press Championship.
It’s all a far cry from when he first tried rugby at Shirebrook Academy. He had a year playing union with Mansfield before switching to league and joining North Derbyshire Chargers as a 12-year-old.
He caught the eye of international scouts and was picked for Scotland U19s thanks to family ties through his grandad, Patrick, who is Scottish. One of his coaches with the national team, Nathan Graham, recommended him to Keighley, whose staff Graham had just joined, and during a five-week trial, they took him on.
Walters is also no mean coach either and has worked with youngsters both at Wolf Hunt and in local schools as part of a part-time role for Bolsover District Council.
He needs to raise £3,500 for his trip to Australia and would welcome donations or sponsorship via a JustGiving page he has set up online or via his e-mail address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org