Leeds Rhinos recently confirmed that 17-year old academy player Jack Walker has turned down a new contract at the seven-time Super League champions. The three-year deal would have guaranteed his place in the first team squad for next season.
The confirmation from the club’s board that he rejected the contract opens up the way for other teams to approach the gifted youngster.
In a statement made on the Rhinos’ official website, Walker said: “At the moment, I still want to keep my options open on my future. Leeds have been great with me in every department and the fans are unbelievable and I’m enjoying playing for the club.”
Leeds finished the regular rounds of the Super League season second on the ladder, ten points behind Castleford Tigers. Walker scored five tries for Leeds in his six senior appearances throughout the year, assisting them on their way to the top eight. The latest rugby league odds of 5/1 for the Rhinos to win the Grand Final suggest that Leeds have a real good chance at taking their eighth league title this year, and Walker may well regret not staying with such a successful club.
Now he is free to talk with other clubs about his future, it hasn’t taken long for rival Betfred Super League teams to show an interest. Warrington Wolves and Salford Red Devils have already been linked with the young full-back, who is widely rated as one of England’s most promising prospects.
The main reason for Walker’s decision seems to be his desire for regular first team football and to play in his favoured position of full-back. However, Leeds already has a preferred starter for that position in Ashton Golding, and the youngster could find it a struggle to break into the starting lineup on a regular basis.
Unfortunately for Walker, Golding is only two years older than him and has just signed a new contract keeping him at the club for the next four years. To make the right career move going forward, the 17-year-old said he felt as though he should keep his options open for the future.
Subsequently, Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has spoken out, in somewhat frank terms, about the teenager’s snub. McDermott reiterated that he wanted Walker to sign with the club on a long-term deal, and has expressed his disappointment with the young star’s decision – stating that Walker shouldn’t be limiting himself to just one position on the field considering just how young he is.
The coach mentioned that even though it’s a shame he probably won’t be with the team next year, the club will move on and focus on refining and strengthening their current roster.
One thing is for sure, though, the young talent has certainly caught the eye of the rugby league community in his limited game time this year, and we will all look forward to his next move.