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Walters appreciating opportunity, first-grade or not

Wests Tigers new recruit Billy Walters says he's relishing the chance to compete for a spot in the Round 1 side after making the move up from Melbourne in the off-season.

Walters will almost certainly add to his tally of two NRL games throughout the course of the 2020 season and beyond with Wests Tigers having produced strong performances throughout the NRL Perth Nines and pre-season trial matches.

The 26-year-old is in contention to start the season opener at hooker, while his versatility could also make him an option for Michael Maguire to use off the bench.

For Walters, a history of hard work throughout his rugby league career has held him in good stead to compete for his spot in his new colours.

“I know it’s a cliché, but think it’s just always taking your dream," Walters told Big Sports Breakfast.

"I was down in SG Ball in Melbourne when I was 18 and then at the end of the season they said they didn’t require me for 20’s. It was a bit hard having to go back to Brisbane and having to keep working on my trade, but I actually ended up having some of the best years of my life at Easts playing through their Colts and then Queensland Cup.

Billy Walters after starring for the Queensland Residents side
Billy Walters after starring for the Queensland Residents side ©NRL Photos

“It just made me appreciate the fact that if I ever did get the opportunity, I’d have to take it with both hands, and I think I've done that.

Walters isn't a complete lock to win the number nine jumper, however, with Origin representatives Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds both spending time throughout the pre-season at hooker.

“It’s been a bit different, I guess, with Josh and I fighting it out for the back end of this pre-season," he said. "We didn’t really know if he was going to be able to play or not and it’s great finding out that he can.

"We also had Moses training there for a little bit too who’s an Origin player himself, so I’ve had to really fight to make this jersey my own and there’s still a bit of work to do.

“I’m sure whoever Madge picks at No.9 they’re going to do the job for the team.”

After previously being coached at the Storm by a noted tough marker in Craig Bellamy, Walters said he had enjoyed learning from a similar no-nonsense coach in Maguire, as well as getting tips from Queensland Coach and father Kevin Walters.

"Both Madge and Craig are pretty similar I think," he said.

"They can get fired up at times when we’re not doing the right thing, but they’re both really smart coaches and really down-to-earth people who are willing to help you in any way they can. They just want to see the best in their players, and Madge has helped me a lot this year in learning the number nine, having coached a few good ones himself.

“And Dad's just told me to have fun, really," he added.

"He can switch on when it’s time to switch on but it’s just really about enjoying my football because you play your best when you are.” 

“I think every NRL club has to work hard in the pre-season and I found that out here, with this one being just as gruelling as anything we did at the Storm."

Wests Tigers will name their 21-man squad to take on the St. George-Illawarra Dragons this Sunday at 4:00pm AEST on Tuesday.