Flagbearing rugby league player Luke Walters is counting down the days to the trip of a lifetime that will transport him from the job-seeking treadmill of Mansfield to the international stage in Australia.
Luke, who lives in Warsop Vale, turns 20 on the day he lands Down Under on Saturday, July 1. And what a celebration party it promises to be. One set to last the best part of three weeks as Luke represents Scotland at the prestigious Student World Cup.
“I can’t wait,” said the talented hooker, who is on a semi-professional contract with Yorkshire outfit, Keighley Cougars. “It will be a really good experience for me.”
To help him on his way, Luke has been overwhelmed by a gesture from friends, which means half the proceeds from an annual charity event, to be held in Shirebrook this Saturday, will help fund his trip.
Called ‘Tacking Cancer’, the event has been organised by a group of former rugby players to raise money in memory of one of their close friends, Lee Butler, and a player’s wife, Debbie Boden, both of whom lost their lives to cancer. Butler was also a friend of Luke’s dad, Lee.
Saturday’s event at the Staff Sports and Social Club on Langwith Road kicks off at 1 pm with a youth match involving Chesterfield Panthers U12s’ side and is followed at 3 pm by an adults’ game between Shirebrook and Exiles. Other attractions include a raffle and a disco, and it is hoped to raise more than £1,000, with Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield also one of the beneficiaries.
“I am so happy and very thankful that they are doing this for me,” said Luke. “The Scotland players have had to rely mainly on self-funding, and it’s costing £3,500. Relatives have also organised raffles and I have received donations too, so I’m close to reaching the target now.”
Luke’s accent is very much more Mansfield than Glasgow, but he is proud of his Scottish roots, which stem from his grandad, Patrick. He has already played for Scotland U19s and he hopes the Student World Cup in Sydney, which is also to be contested by teams from England, Wales, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, will be the highlight of his rugby league career so far.
He is eligible because he was a student at Leeds Beckett University, although he is soon to drop out of a sports coaching degree course. “I enjoyed the coaching side, but I wasn’t strong on the academic stuff and getting my thoughts down on paper,” he said. “I am looking for work now and trying to get back on my feet.”
His dream would be to make a living out of playing rugby league and his spell with Cougars’ reserves side has started well, although they were hammered 84-14 by St Helens in their only league game so far. He remains keen on coaching and will soon be taking sessions again with youngsters at his community club, Sherwood Wolf Hunt, of Mansfield Woodhouse.