Saints had plenty of selling points - on and off the field, says Alex Walmsley (From St Helens Star)
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Saints had plenty of selling points - on and off the field, says Alex Walmsley
10:59am Friday 9th November 2012 in Sport
Saints’ new signing Alex Walmsley will find the flat, crisp surface of Langtree Park a welcome change to the hurdle that is placed in front of players at the infamously sloping Mount Pleasant ground.
But before he gets used to that, the coaching and conditioning staff at Saints will no doubt be re-acquainting him with a few more hills which are part and parcel of pre-season training regimes.
The 22-year-old former Batley Bulldogs prop, who has signed a three-year contract, started training on Monday and is looking forward to the challenge that the step up in class and the new environment will throw at him.
After the success fellow prop Chris Hill made of his transition from Leigh to Warrington, it has become noticeable that top clubs are scouting the Championship again. It meant that Saints were not the only club interested in securing the 6ft 5ins prop.
But Walmsley had plenty of good advice before making up his mind.
He explained: “The reputation of the club was a clincher for me to head over to St Helens. John Kear, my coach at Batley, advised me like an agent would do in recommending the club.
“When you look at selling points of the brand new stadium, great training facilities and the fact they have been one of the biggest, most successful Super League clubs, it would have been silly to pass this chance up.
“When I got over there and spoke to Mike Rush, I knew it was definitely a team I wanted to be part of.
“Mike had told me that they had been following me all season, but I was not aware of that to be honest.”
Walmsley said he will be commuting initially to see how that goes – but he will be on his own. Gone are the days when the ‘Yorkshire Bus’ of Lee Gilmour, Nick Fozzard, Leon Pryce and Paul Anderson rolled up every day. With Michael Shenton returning to Castleford and Jon Wilkin now a naturalised Lancastrian, Walmsley will be the only Tyke in the ranks.
“I am the only a Yorkshire lad in the ranks and I am sure to get a grief about that,” he said. “It helps me out that we have a new coach coming in – and we are all new boys to him in that respect.
“My target this year is to try and break into the 17. I know it is going to be tough because there are a lot of really good players who are already settled. But that is my goal – whether that is for four of five games or most of the season we will see how it goes.”
Although not quite as tall as ‘Big John’ Harrison or Peter Shiels, Walmsley has a huge frame that will fill out in the full-time environment.
He can gallop a bit, too.
“My stride is pretty good and I can pick up pace a bit for a big lad,” Walmsley said. “I have a second row stature but I have always played prop.
“It is going to be a massive learning curve – how can it be anything other when I am going to be playing alongside a load of superstars.
“I am a late developer but I still have a lot to come, especially when it comes to putting on size.
“There is some good talent in the Championship – you only have to look how well Fev did against Cas and Wigan.
“There are a few more gems in that division ready to be unearthed.”