Walking out in front of a sold out Old Trafford for the biggest game in the rugby league season is what every amateur player dreams of.
That dream became reality for Dewsbury’s Alex Walmsley, after he helped St Helens win the Super League Grand Final, by beating rivals Wigan Warriors 14-6 back in October.
Alex Walmsley celebrating with the Grand Final Trophy
This is a remarkable achievement when you consider less than three years ago, the 24-year-old was playing with local amateurs Dewsbury Celtic.
“It’s been a turbulent three years, it’s been unbelievable and I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Walmsley.
“I’ve been to numerous Grand Finals watching as a kid, and to walk out in front of 70,000 fans on the biggest stage of all was a surreal experience, and is the pinnacle point in my career so far.”
Just two and a half years ago Walmsley was playing for Dewsbury Celtic in the local cup against Birstall Victoria.
“Back then if anybody would have said to me that in less than three years time I would be lifting the biggest trophy in club rugby league I would have said they were mad,” he said.
“It’s what you dream of doing as a kid and it’s what I dreamed of doing when I was 20-years-old playing for Dewsbury Celtic.
“With a bit of luck, some great coaching, and the support of my family and friends, I was lucky enough to go on and achieve this.
“I have had to make sacrifices, but that comes with it, and when you lift up that trophy it makes it all seem so easy and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
The young prop was handed a trial at Batley Bulldogs by coach John Kear after seeing Walmsley impress during games for his University side in Leeds.
“I played my first league game against Leigh Centurions after I was lucky enough to get a spot on the bench, I came on and played well and from then on I played every single week, it was brilliant.”
He was then offered a two-year deal by the Bulldogs, and after a successful first season was selected in the Championship team of the year, received Batley’s player of the year, and the Championship’s young player of the year award.
“For me, at the time, playing for Batley was the pinnacle in my career, it’s a great club, is very family orientated and is full of great people.”
After proving to be a revelation at Batley, St Helens were interested in signing the young star, and he signed a three-year deal with the Super League side.
Images courtesy of Alex Walmsley.
He said: “As soon as I came to St Helens and looked at the place, with all the history behind the club, I thought this is where I want to be, and when I signed it was a massive honour.
“I remember sitting in the changing rooms with all the St Helens stars, and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to play with them.
“To be able to go on a pitch and call these players my teammates, it’s what dreams are made of and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Due to numerous injuries in the St Helens side, Walmsley got his chance, and he certainly took his opportunity by making a serious impression throughout the Super League in his first few games.
He admitted that playing as many games as he did took him by surprise, and that playing in a Grand Final surpassed any expectations, but the humble 24-year-old is now an established squad member at the Saints, and is determined to keep working hard in what for him, will hopefully be another successful season.
Walmsley gave a lot of credit to his former coach at Dewsbury Celtic, Paul Heaton, and acknowledged how hard he worked with him during his time at Celtic.
“He definitely had a big influence on the player I am today and he really stuck at me in those early days and got me back loving the game.
“I will always go back and watch the boys play at Celtic, you can never forget your roots and I’m proud of where I’ve come from.”