St Helens' prop Alex Walmsley shows unconventional route to the elite can lead to success

Alex Walmsley’s rise to one of the best props in the world should provide plenty of inspiration for younger rugby league players, believes Batley Bulldogs head coach Craig Lingard.

By Ben McKenna
Friday, 8th October 2021, 12:00 pm
Alex Walmsley. Picture: Ed Sykes/
Alex Walmsley. Picture: Ed Sykes/

Walmsley, whose breakout season with Batley in 2012 saw him move to St Helens in 2013, is aiming to win his fourth Super League Grand Final with Saints.

The Merseyside club take on Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford on Saturday, aiming to win the Grand Final for the third year in a row.

Walmsley, who helped end St Helens' long wait to win the Challenge Cup this season, was still playing the amateur game with Dewsbury Celtic in 2011 at the age of 21, and Lingard feels his unconventional route to the top of the sport should inspire plenty of young players to keep believing they can reach the elite level.

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“It shows them there is an avenue back into top-level full-time rugby,” said Lingard of Walmsley, who has also earned international caps for England and Great Britain.

“Just because you don’t get signed on as a junior or if you get to 19-years-old and are told you are not needed in first-team rugby - there is an avenue back.

“It might be that you have to go through the University game and through the amateur ranks like Alex has done. He is probably the form player in the entire sport - and I take players in the NRL in that.

“There are not many better players in his position throughout world rugby.

“For young players there is a lesson to be learnt. You might get knocks along the way but it is how you react to these knocks. Just because you are told you might not be good enough doesn’t mean you aren’t.”

Walmsley was named the National Conference player of the year in 2011, putting him on Batley’s radar ahead of the 2012 season.

“I think they expected him to play half a dozen games in his first season but he played nearly every one,” added Lingard, with Walmsley then going on to make over 200 appearances for St Helens.

“If you really want to make it and the ability is there, there is an avenue for you if you want to take it.”