Walters presses for NRL contract
Easts Tigers five-eighth Billy Walters will be hoping to impress NRL club scouts when he runs out for Queensland in Sunday's Residents clash at Suzuki Stadium in Brisbane.
It will be Walters' Residents debut after a stellar start to the Intrust Super Cup season, with the lively half helping the Tigers to fourth on the ladder after nine rounds.
Easts sit only one point off top spot, and while the majority of his Easts teammates will use the Representative Round to recover, Walters will be aiming to help Queensland reclaim bragging rights after a 30-16 defeat in the corresponding fixture last year.
That clash saw NSW Resident Ken Maumalo score a hat-trick, with this performance resulting in the hulking winger being recalled to the New Zealand Warriors starting side in the NRL – a position he still holds.
It's proof that NRL clubs do take notice of the annual Residents match, and the uncontracted Walters will be using the experience to push his name towards first grade.
"(Getting an NRL contract) is 100 per cent the goal. It's a good opportunity this week to try and get my foot in the door," Walters said.
"I just need to enjoy the week and live it up with all the boys.
"It's unreal. It's probably more (about) the experience.
"There are so many boys in the team this year that have played first grade so I'm just trying to learn off them and hopefully try and take that next step forward."
Walters has quickly risen through the rugby league ranks after a self-confessed slow start to his career.
A 'late bloomer', Walters missed out on playing under-20s due to his lack of size, working his way up the ranks at Easts instead.
Now a permanent fixture in the club's Intrust Super Cup side, 23-year-old Walters said he had come a long way since his late teens.
"I always knew I was going to be a late bloomer. I'm still growing as a man whereas a lot of the other boys look a lot older," he said.
"When I was 18 to 20 I was still a little kid so there was no way I was going to play under-20s. I just had to be patient and wait.
"Even now if someone said I would never play NRL then it [wouldn't matter]. I'd still be playing footy. It's what I love to do and what I've always done. I'd play for free if I could."