I spoke to Alex Walmsley last week about his Rugby League career from the start as he looks forward to his testimonial match for St Helens against Leigh Centurions at Totally Wicked Stadium this Friday night.
Alex is an unusual player in an important sense these days.
Unlike most players, especially in St Helens, he did not attend a professional Academy but instead played for a community club, Dewsbury Celtic, as a youngster and retired from Rugby League when the Under-16s team of that club was dissolved.
“I was a million miles away at 15 or 16. I was just making progress at Dewsbury Celtic, at under 15 the team folded and I stopped playing for a few years,” he said.
But then, luckily for all of us, the Dewsbury Celtic Under-18s team was reformed and Alex was persuaded to join the team.
“I had a year under 18 and that was my route,” he said.
“I didn’t even play before that. I was very heavy as a young boy, when I stopped playing I only played a little bit of badminton.
“Paul Heaton (from Dewsbury Celtic) got the under-18s back to playing and without him I would be very surprised if I ever started playing rugby again.
“Instead of trying to become a full-time player, which would have been impossible because I wasn’t good enough at the time, I went to university for a quantity measurement degree.
“When this year is over, I will look beyond just playing.
“I have my diploma, which shows a level of competence, so I think I am quite deployable.
“The week before I started at St Helens, I was offered a job as a quantity meter at a company in Wakefield.
“During the interview for that job, I told him that I had missed the boat and that full-time rugby would not be an option. If part-time rugby had interfered with the amount measurements, I then decided to stop playing.
“But when St Helens offered me a contract, I had to tell him I wouldn’t take the job. It wasn’t an easy decision, but that’s why I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on.”
And the moral of the story is that it’s never too late to grab the attention of a big club.
I am very happy that Alex succeeded.
I hope all the fans of St. Helens will come out Friday night to support him.
It’s the least he deserves.
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