How brekkie with Robinson and Keary inspired Sam Walker

It is not often that a 16-year-old footy player gets to sit down with a premiership-winning coach and a Clive Churchill Medal winner to talk about rugby league.

But it is what Queensland Under 18 halfback Sam Walker got out of that experience that says as much about his character as it does about his prodigious ability.

Walker, currently signed to the Brisbane Broncos, is being chased by a dozen NRL clubs and has already found himself the subject of back page story in The Daily Telegraph as a possible long term replacement for Cooper Cronk.

The Sydney Roosters are one of the clubs interested in Walker and earlier this year he sat down for breakfast in a Coogee café with coach Trent Robinson and five-eighth Luke Keary to talk footy, a day after touring the Roosters facility with his parents Ben and Kylie.

When asked what he got out of the experience, Walker didn’t talk about contracts or his future. He spoke about his constant goal - to be a better player and person.

"It was really good to sit down and learn. Trent Robinson is the first head (NRL) coach to speak to me about the way I play and I picked up little tips," Sam said.

"Trent is the best coach in the NRL at the moment and it is good to hear from the best. I’ve only ever had my dad and uncle (Shane) correct my game and encourage me how to play, so it was really good to hear his thoughts on how I can become a better player, because I am always learning at the moment.

"I am turning 17 very soon and I know I need to get better and improve.

"I spoke to Luke Keary about how he works with players and gets the best out of them. They have got a really strong team and culture at the Roosters and I picked up on that."

Walker, who was a standout for the Ipswich Jets in the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup this year, and will line up for the Queensland Under 18 side against NSW on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium, has been absorbed in rugby league since he was an infant.

His father Ben Walker and uncle Shane Walker, both former NRL stars themselves, have been coaching the Jets since 2011 and Sam has been a regular presence at training, where he has absorbed the philosophy of "Jets footy" almost by osmosis.

Ben knows his son will soon have a big decision to make, but the club he plays with in future will be determined by the quality of the coach.

Ben said the Roosters experience was extremely worthwhile.

"I think it was good for him. The Broncos had played the Roosters the night before so Keary was talking to Sam about what he did against the Broncos," Ben said.

"Sam was able to say 'I saw you do this against the Broncos' and 'why did you do that?' and Keary was able to explain why. Keary was very open and articulate with what his thoughts were during the game.

"Trent was talking about the same sort of stuff. We had spent the day before at the Roosters and they showed us around and explained what they were going to do and what they could offer. The club is really impressive."

Walker’s play has also been impressive, to say the least.

Sam Walker in action for the Ipswich Jets. Photo: QRL Media
Sam Walker in action for the Ipswich Jets. Photo: QRL Media

Those who have seen clips him play will often say "how did he do that?"

The teenager has all the skills and others that don’t exist.

Wrack your brain and try and think of a footballer he reminds you of and the only one you can think of is…Sam Walker. He is his own man, but it is no surprise Maroons legend Johnathan Thurston is the player that he looks up to.

"That is because he always wanted his hands on the ball, which is the way I play," Sam said. 

"If his team needed points he would create an opportunity, so as I grew up I would pick up little tips off him."

The creativity of Walker’s play is a testament to the environment he has grown up in.

"It has been awesome. It is pretty rare to be in my position... since I started playing footy, my dad has always been coaching at a high level with the Ipswich Jets," Sam said.

"I’ve grown up with my uncles (Shane and Chris), father and grandfather (Garry), who played at a high level for so many years, and I’ve always been getting tips and ideas off them about how to improve my game.

"My dad has always encouraged me and steered me in the right direction which is why I play the style of footy I do today.

"I love getting my hands on the ball and if there is space, attack the space.

"I don’t like sitting back and waiting for an opportunity. I’ll try and create an opportunity myself and create points. You’ve got to be able to be on both sides of the field and be creative. If there is an opportunity and you let it go by there might not be another one for half an hour or an hour, or even again in a game.

"The higher level footy I play the harder the opportunities are so you have to take every opportunity I get."

Walker has handled the hype around him with a cool head and with a focus beyond his years.

Sam Walker, for the Queensland Under 18 side, during opposed session with the Maroons. Photo: QRL Media
Sam Walker, for the Queensland Under 18 side, during opposed session with the Maroons. Photo: QRL Media

"I have had a few clubs interested, but at the moment I am trying to focus on my schoolwork and get the best OP and grades I can because I want to go to university and hopefully study something in the business area," Sam said.

"Nothing really happens unless I am playing good footy.

"Now that season has finished with the Jets I am looking forward to playing First XV rugby hopefully with Ipswich Grammar this year. That is a goal.

"I am trying to set my goals as I go along. Firstly I want to play really well for the Queensland Under 18s and represent my state well. I am not looking too far ahead."

Walker is in the elite development squad at the Broncos and said he was learning plenty on and off the field at the club.

"We have a welfare officer at the Broncos that is really supportive and looks after you in that respect," Sam said.

"There is also the strength and conditioning, speed work and physio if ever I need it so all that is helping me improve and make my football become better.

"My goal for me this year is to enjoy my footy as much as I can. It will probably be my last with my mates at school and in my club."