Going into this season every praised Leeds’ squad and their recruitment.
They had signed well with four top quality players coming in and had plenty of depth. However, one area in which they lacked depth was at prop allowing King Vuniyayawa to join Salford but not replacing the man who himself was a replacement for Challenge Cup winning prop Ava Seaumanufagai who left after 2020 as Leeds were attempting to assemble their best pack in years by bringing in Zane Tetevano not as Seaumanufagai’s replacement but to go alongside him. But it wasn’t to be.
Following Vuniyayawa’s exit, Leeds were encouraged to sign a prop but instead moved for winger David Fusitu’a who is truly starting to hit form in a Leeds shirt.
Going into the season with four natural props in Mikolaj Oledzki, Zane Tetevano, Matt Prior and Tom Holroyd was a risky move and one Leeds have paid the price for.
Tom Holroyd may only get one game under his belt after a long term injury coupled with a huge suspension received for a brawl whilst on dual registration at Bradford whilst recovering from that injury.
Zane Tetevano has been in and out of the side with bans all season and currently has four more games to sit out after a shoulder charge on Konrad Hurrell when Leeds lost to St Helens.
Even Mikolaj Oledzki and Matt Prior have been in and out of the side as well. But recently Leeds have unearthed another option in the role one who is already showing his worth to the side.
That player is Sam Walters who since the Huddersfield game has acted as a prop coming off the bench in a shift away from his natural second-row position.
In that game he had an average of 8 metres per carry as the rest of the pack struggled and he out performed the likes of Oledzki.
Then against St Helens he stood up to be counted against the league’s best pack with 59 metres in total and over 7 metres per carry and making more metres than Oledzki, Tetevano and Prior.
Following this against Hull he made 71 metres – an impressive total coming off the bench – and averaged over 8 metres per carry.
In general this year he had an average gain of 7.72 metres per carry. That’s not too far off Alex Walmsley’s who has little over eight. It is more than Walmsley’s St Helens’ teammate Matty Lees at 6.75 and more than the three props he’s been playing with.
Oledzki stands at 7.4, Tetevano at 7.07 and Prior at 6.61. So, Walters may just be Leeds’ answer in the middles and could take the club forward from that role with Tetevano and Prior getting older. In Walters, Holroyd, Oledzki and the incoming Justin Sangare Leeds could have four young and exciting props.
The move has rekindled Walters’ Leeds career and Rohan Smith should be praised for doing so. At 6 foot 8 and a powerful runner, Walters always had massive potential but his chances of playing backrow were very limited with Morgan Gannon’s emergence.
So, Smith may have set Walters on the path to glory and solved a pressing issue in his squad in one fell swoop.