Luke Walters - the leading example of how Mansfield Woodhouse-based Sherwood Wolf Hunt can produce rugby league players who could go on to play at a higher level - is relishing taking part in international competition again.
Walters, a Scottish under-19 international who has just represented Scotland at the Student Four Nations at the University of Edinburgh, is also looking forward to the opportunity to be involved in the future development of youngsters as Wolf Hunt continues to progress ambitious plans for the future.
He will be coaching the Wolf Hunt under-13s and also coach at the club’s 15 planned RFL Midlands RL Development days as it works with the Rugby Football League and the Embed The Pathway programme throughout the region to give seven to 14-year-olds a taste of the sport.
The pathway programme focuses on both coaches and youngsters with the aim of producing a World Cup-winning national side in six years, while Wolf Hunt has developed its 2020 Vision Programme to try to produce Super League players for the 2020s and beyond.
Walters, a hooker, who can also play forward, said: “It is a real honour to be playing in the Student Four Nations and I am enjoying my time playing for Scotland.
“I feel that it is not just developing me as a player but is helping me develop as a man - and is giving me great experiences. I am enjoying the intensity of the games and the standard of the opposition.”
Talking about the coaching role at Wolf Hunt, Walters said he felt it suited him.
“I like being able to pass on what I have learnt to younger players in the hope that they enjoy the sport and maybe then push on further and progress in their careers.
“Our aims for the first year are to get the young lads enjoying rugby league and raise awareness of the team to draw more people into this great sport.”
Walters, studying for a sports coaching degree at Leeds Becket University, based at Leeds Rhino’s Carnegie Stadium, is Wolf Hunt’s first player to turn professional after he signed semi-professional papers for Featherstone Rovers earlier this year - a place where he played as a junior with the amateur Featherstone Lions side.
Sadly that didn’t work out when, after Walters had played a couple of games, Featherstone disbanded their Reserve Grade side in April, like several clubs, over a lack of fixtures.
Walters, who first played for Scotland under-19s last year after qualifying through family ties, started at North Derbyshire Chargers and Featherstone Lions as a junior before moving to Wolf Hunt two and a half years ago as a 16-year-old.
He then stepped up to help Wolf Hunt’s Midlands Rugby League Division 1 Championship-winning squad last season at their Debdale Park Sports and Recreation Club base in Mansfield Woodhouse.
His success with and commitment to the international side saw him named Scotland under-19s Player of the Year for 2015.
The teenager was presented with the Thompson-Tait Award, named after ground-breaking Scottish rugby league figures Graeme Thompson and Alan Tait, for several fine performances, culminating in a man-of-the-match performance in a 30-12 win over Ireland in October.
He is now looking forward to a return to international action at Featherstone Rovers’ ground.
“I can’t wait to be playing back at the Big Fellas Stadium on 16th July for Scotland under-19s,” he said
Walters aims to be involved in the sport as a career when he leaves university.
“It would be my ideal job to be involved in rugby league one way or another as I love the game,” he said.
“I have a real passion to give my best from any angle I can, whether that be from a coaching role developing new talent and pushing them through to Super League or as a player. I would be happy with either as it is the best game in the world to be involved with.
“I will be looking to better myself further, push for a spot in the Scotland team in next year’s Student World Cup and then look to start and break into the first team of the Scotland ranks.”
Wolf Hunt chairman Richard Tempest-Mitchell said: “From a junior rugby development angle, as a fourth-quartile baby, Luke has done very well. Most fourth quartile juniors don’t quite make it. “Historically those kids tend to drop off at around 13 or 14 due to size and development issues as it’s not until they are 18 or19 that they have caught up physically.
“Rugby League is a very physical sport and the difference in some kids is stark between first and fourth quartile in terms of size, strength and pace, as well as emotional development.
“The Embed The Pathway programme, which we are part of, is a very scientific rugby pathway designed to give coaches the tools and knowledge to deal with these issues and develop young talent across the spectrum, to ensure all children get bespoke coaching to keep them in the game until they are 18.
“It focuses on personal skills such as patience, tenacity, personal responsibility, as well as rugby skills.
“Once they are there at 17 or 18 their talent can then flourish. The programme is designed to ensure that England win the World Cup in the next six years.
“Here at Wolf Hunt, we’ve developed our 2020 Vision Programme, aimed at producing Super League players for the 2020s and beyond, so that North Notts produces a potential World Cup winning player in years to come.
“But for now it is all about having fun, so that kids stay in the game.”
Wolf Hunt’s junior section manager Glen Holt, who will work alongside Walters with the club’s under-13s, said having the teenager involved meant the young players could see that they could play high-level rugby league and that it was possible to rise up the ranks with the right attitude and great coaching.