Teenager Walker savours his debut hat-trick for Rhinos
A HAT-TRICK of tries on his Leeds Rhinos debut capped a remarkable comeback from injury by teenager Jack Walker.
The 17-year-old became only the eighth Leeds player to cross three times in his first appearance for the club when Rhinos eased past third tier Doncaster 64-28 in the Challenge Cup fifth round.
Called into the side after first and second-choice fullbacks Ashton Golding and Liam Sutcliffe were ruled out, along with winger Tom Briscoe, Walker went over the whitewash three times in succession in the first half. It was an eye-catching effort by the youngster, who is not a member of Leeds’ full-time squad and had trained with his team-mates only three times before the match, but he revealed an accident four years ago almost ended his career before it began.
There were fears he would not play again after he suffered a fractured skull playing for amateur club Oulton in an under-14s match and Walker recalled: “I was playing full-back, against Hunslet Warriors.
“They made a break down the blind side, I went in for a tackle and I’ve been told I got a knee to the head.
“I got knocked out, my eyes went back and I had a seizure on the pitch.
“I woke up on the pitch and, waiting for the ambulance, I couldn’t feel the right side of my body.
“When I got in the ambulance I threw up, but I felt fine after that.
“The main thing on my mind afterwards has been aiming for [his debut] for a very long time.
“It’s all I’ve been working for – it’s what all the hard work has been about.
“A lot of people told me to think of a different career, but I just kept with rugby and it has been worthwhile.”
Walker described his debut hat-trick as “the best thing that could have happened to me”.
He added: “I have been working hard, doing extras before and after training and that has paid off.
“I trained with the first team in a couple of sessions before Monday’s game and then on Thursday.
“The lads are all supportive and they helped me out a lot.
“I’m working hard every training session and I’ll see what comes up; if the first team want me to play with them I’ll do a job or if it’s 19s, I’ll step in and help out.”
Rhinos coach Brian McDermott also praised Walker saying his debut was the best he had seen since Stevie Ward’s.
Meanwhile, Doncaster coach Gary Thornton is hoping his team’s performance after the break at Headingley will inspire improved form in League One.
Rhinos led 44-4 at half-time, but Doncaster outscored them 24-20 in the final 40 minutes.
“I am really pleased, I thought the second half performance was excellent,” Thornton said.
“We’ve been a bit down in the dumps in the last few weeks.
“We’ve had some poor performances, certainly against Toronto and York, so we tried to go to Leeds in positive mood.
“I thought we showed some excellent spirit and togetherness and to come out and win the second half I thought was really, really credible for us.”
JACK WALKER: Leeds rookie scored a hat-trick on his debut for the Rhinos against Doncaster.