Forward Sam Walters has shed light on his departure from Leeds to join Wigan Warriors in an exclusive interview with Love Rugby League, revealing he felt he was messed around by the Rhinos and had to leave.
Walters spent five seasons with Leeds, but has signed for the Warriors from 2024 on a three-year deal. His exit from Headingley was much-maligned by fans of the Loiners.
The 22-year-old only made 17 appearances for the Rhinos in 2023, primarily in the front-row, and played once for Bradford Bulls on loan.
Exclusive: Wigan Warriors recruit Sam Walters details unsavoury Leeds Rhinos exit
“I feel like I had a few problems over contract stuff at my former club and game-time at the start of the year,” Walters told Love Rugby League.
“Wigan came over and showed their interest and that really gave me some food for thought. Obviously playing in my preferred position and in a championship-winning side, it’s hard to turn down really.
“I’m really grateful for Leeds giving me my opportunity in Super League, but I feel like the way it was managed with myself it was sort of a dirty situation in the end.
“I felt as a man and what I stand for, this was the best for me and I had to sort of get out. Towards the start of the year I didn’t get to play much, and as soon as I signed in May, my form went up from there.
“When word got out that I was moving, I just wanted to show where my head was at, that my head was still with my current team and not elsewhere. I think I did that.”
With Kai Pearce-Paul leaving Wigan to head to the NRL and join the Newcastle Knights, there is a starting second-row spot up for grabs at the DW Stadium.
“I played front–row all last season apart from when one of our back-rowers went down,” Walters explained.
“I didn’t mind playing there, but I feel like this season I want to nail down a back-rower’s spot at Wigan. It’s obviously good for me for the range of positions, but I feel like for my progression and where I want to be in the game, it’s important that I focus on one position for now.”
A family affair for Widnesian Walters
Originally from Widnes, the forward has moved closer to family in the North West, and is enjoying the challenge of pre-season at the Warriors.
“100% with all my family back home, I get to see them a lot,” Walters said.
“My mum’s been around a lot. Pre-season is good, it’s really intense. It’s a big step up from what I’ve been used to, but I feel like I’m settled in now and improving day by day.
“I’d say the intensity is a little bit higher [at Wigan compared to Leeds]. The cultural stuff is massively important to the club, and I’m getting used to that and what they expect of you as a Wigan player.”
World Club Challenge test one being relished by Wigan squad
The former Halton Farnworth Hornets junior is excited about the chance to play against NRL champions Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge in February, and for Wigan to challenge for more trophies next year.
Wigan have recruited strongly by signing the likes of Leeming, Luke Thompson, Adam Keighran and Tiaki Chan alongside the towering figure of Walters.
“I’m looking forward to all the games, but obviously that one’s on the big stage,” he said.
“The chance to go up against the best and prove myself on that stage. We’ve got a good squad with good values and a core that can push, especially the older boys, push those standards really high.
“Hopefully we’re competing [at the top] by the end of the year.”