Johnny Walker

Date published: Thursday, July 8, 2010

ROUGHYEDS have moved quickly to sign loose-forward Johnny Walker on a professional contract to the end of next season.

Other clubs, including Widnes Vikings, were closing in on the 22-year-old from Wigan, who has been starring for Roughyeds reserves while on trial at Whitebank since early June.

“Having had a few weeks at Oldham, I felt a more permanent move to Roughyeds would definitely be the right one for me,” said Walker, who gave a stunning performance in the reserves’ last home game against Doncaster.

He hurt a shoulder in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s superb 20-16 win at Leigh, but he hopes to be back in action soon.

Said coach Tony Benson: “Johnny received offers from other clubs, but he chose to stand by us because we had given him a chance in the reserves. That means a lot to me. I want players here who genuinely want to be here.

“I’ve been watching him closely in the last few weeks. He is an exciting attacker and a strong defender. His core skills are top notch.

“I was keen for him to stay at the club because he has all the attributes to become another David Allen. He is exactly what I’ve been looking for.”

Roughyeds were tipped off a couple of months ago that the former Wigan Warriors’ youngster was looking for a club after taking time out from the game to study and qualify as a fitness instructor.

Reserve team coach John Hough invited Walker to Whitebank and he made his debut for the reserves in a 58-20 win against Hunslet Hawks on June 5.

“He will be pushing for the first team soon,” said John, “and I hope he isn’t the only one to be doing that out of the second team. The carrot is there for everybody.”

Walker, who lives in Wigan, signed for the Warriors when he was 15. He won an under-18s young-player-of-the-year award and on moving up to under-21s there was one season when he was top try scorer.

He played for Lancashire under-18s and for England, against France, at under-21 level, but a fall-out with the then Wigan boss Brian Noble led to his departure from his hometown club.

A short spell at Warrington was followed by a move to Whitehaven before Walker opted to concentrate on his studies.

“When I was ready to start playing again Oldham were the first club to contact me,” he said, “and I’ve been really happy there. I’m looking forward to showing what I can do over the next 18 months or so and if everything works out I’ll hopefully be offered another contract after that.”

Half-back Matty Ashe, who picked up calf and collar-bone injuries at Gateshead, is Roughyeds’ only doubt for the derby clash with Swinton Lions at Whitebank on Sunday (3pm kick off).

He will be assessed at training tonight but a final decision on his fitness may be held back until Saturday.