When you think about the players who have come up with the biggest Grand Final moments, everyone knows every little bit about them and their lives. We all know and love Rob Burrow, Sean Long is always talked about even today whilst last year’s Grand Final winner Jack Welsby continually creates headlines and will do for the rest of his career you’d think. However, one man bucks this trend and his name is Josh Walters.
In one of the biggest and best Grand Finals ever in 2015 as Leeds claimed arguably their most unforgettable title, it was Walters who settled the contest with his 63rd minute try but unlike the likes of Burrow, Long and Welsby, very few know what Walters is up to today.
Walters’ rugby league career started in 2014 after he’d made the switch from rugby union the year before. He burst onto the scene at Headingley impressing all after his debut against Huddersfield. The back-rower made nine impressive appearances for the Rhinos during some injury hit months and got over the line for an impressive three tries. By the end of the campaign, hopes were high for the forward and he was awarded for his impressive break out campaign with a leap down the squad numbers moving from 28 to 21 ahead of the 2015 season.
Few could’ve predicted the importance that season would take on for the Rhinos. In the early stages of the campaign, it became apparent that it would be Kylie Leuluai’s, Jamie Peacock’s and Kevin Sinfield’s final campaign. With the confirmation of their impending retirement, the goal for the year also became clear: to send them out on the highest of highs with as much silverware as possible.
Unsurprisingly, that prompted Leeds to start fast and they only lost once in their opening 11 games. Such was the form of Leeds’ established starters, Walters didn’t get a look in until Round 14 during a period in which they were struggling and even lost away to Widnes that day. Not the best first appearance of the season for Walters who then came in and out of the side as they struggled with injuries for the remainder of the season with the likes of Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Stevie Ward and Liam Sutcliffe being hit with long term problems.
During the regular campaign, Walters got over for just one try and it was in bizarre fashion during a 70-6 win over Salford. The second-row supported a break and looked headed for a simple try but fell over just before the line. He then sat up and plonked the ball down creating a strange image. However, his next score would be a much more important and serious affair.
Leeds went onto win the Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield without Walters but their growing injury problems saw him drafted onto the bench for the Grand Final to make his first ever play-off appearance.
He was introduced whilst the Rhinos were behind the eight-ball and trailing 20-16. Then his big moment arrived when a Danny McGuire kick was patted down and moved into the arms of Jimmy Keinhorst. The German then found Walters in support who crashed over for one of the biggest tries in Leeds’ history. Ultimately, it won the Grand Final for the Rhinos as they secured the treble to send their legends out on the highest of highs.
The main question going into 2016 was whether or not the Rhinos could cope without the likes of Sinfield and Peacock. Youngsters were tasked with filling the void including Walters himself. He made 13 appearances as the Rhinos limped to a ninth-place finish.
Expectations weren’t high going into 2017, but Leeds defied the odds to claim the Super League title and Walters played his part making eight appearances throughout the campaign however this time he didn’t feature in the Grand Final side.
Despite the success of 2017, 2018 was another year of struggle now that Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire had moved on and again Walters was tasked with stepping up and did so with 19 appearances and two tries as Leeds secured survival in the Middle 8s.
Those would prove to be his last as a Rhino however. He began the 2019 season as a Leeds player but, having made 17 previous appearances for Featherstone on dual registration, Walters joined the Rovers full-time and helped them to the 2019 Championship Final.
After that he joined London Broncos following their relegation from Super League and still plies his trade in the capital today.
Although he now finds himself in the Championship, he created an unforgettable Super League moment and Leeds fans will always remember his contribution to their treble triumph in 2015.