Talor Walters says the fact he is injury-free and has had his first full pre-season since joining the club have been the key ingredients to his outstanding 2019 form for the Tweed Seagulls.
This time last year the 23-year-old Rotorua-born Kiwi, who did not play league until he was 16, was back playing A-grade while still regathering confidence after a serious ankle injury had badly hampered his career.
Now he is one of the Seagulls’ strike weapons heading into their first finals appearance since 2014 and without doubt has been one of the most impressive backs in the Intrust Super Cup this season.
Walters has moved into the top 10 Intrust Super Cup try-scorers by taking his season tally to 13 with trebles in the past two Seagulls’ victories, against Easts Tigers and Souths Logan Magpies.
He admits his preferred position is fullback where he is fine form saw him picked in QRL website’s team of the week several times in the early rounds. But he has played seven games (and four of the last five) on the wing which has allowed the versatile playmaker Lindon McGrady to slip back to fullback and have dominant playmaker Ash Taylor and the quickly improving Luke Jurd play in the halves.
That’s the combination coach Ben Woolf will take into the finals with Titans marquee player Taylor settling into the team combinations well since his return from time away from the game to address personal issues.
And it certainly gives the side extra strike, with Walters forming a dynamic combination with Titans-contracted Treymain Spry on the right.
Walters – who has played fullback, centre and wing regularly at senior level – joined the club in 2017 after being in the Melbourne Storm under-20s system and playing Colts (and five ISC games) for Burleigh Bears, winning the 2015 Colts grand final alongside current Seagulls teammate Jack Cook.
However, the shocking ankle injury cut his first season to just nine appearances and, after returning to the game late in 2018, he made only eight ISC appearances while a drop in confidence and niggling injuries saw him spend time in Kevin Campion’s A-grade team in the Gold Coast competition.
Having qualified with the required appearances, he dropped back to play in the finals and ran out in the grand final – a loss to Runaway Bay. He is now in career-best form and looking at playing state league finals for the first time.
“This is the first time I’ve had a full pre-season in three years and that has been a big difference,” said Walters who has played 19 of Tweed’s 22 games this season.
“Not getting injured has helped and the team has performed better than the previous two seasons, so I’ve just gained some momentum off that.
“I definitely prefer fullback but I’ve played plenty of wing and centre and I’ve adapted to the wing fine the past few weeks and starting to get a good combination there with Treymain.
“We’ve all been working on playing off each other’s strengths since Ash has come into the halves and Lindon at fullback and it will be good to go into the finals with a few games behind us with those combinations.
“I’m enjoying it and just trying to stay injury free and improve each week.
“The tries are a bonus. I can’t remember too many times I’ve scored three tries in a game and to do it two weeks in a row is a first at senior level.”
Walters was one of the competition’s most dynamic returners of kicks when at fullback due to his deceptive swerve, pace and strength to shake off a defender, and he made several busts through the middle of the field.
Yet on the wing, his ‘in-and-away’ has been lethal and he has become extremely hard to stop close to the line, although he has had a bit to do in many of his 13 tries.
Coach Ben Woolf admits it was the return of Taylor plus the emergence of Jurd that forced him to make the tough decision to switch Walters to the wing (he played there when Titans’ Ryley Jacks was in the side for three games mid-season).
“We thought Talor had been in great form at fullback but Lindon was playing well enough to remain in the team and we could use his ball playing skills at fullback,” Woolf said.
“This meant Talor moved to the wing where he has been able to focus more on his running game which is his strength. He is a dynamic ball runner who carries strongly in yardage and has the speed and strength to finish well.
“It gives us an extra attacking strength and it has worked well for us the past few weeks.”
Walters, like many who are performing well in the ISC competition, hasn’t given up hope of playing NRL saying it remains “an aspiration”.
In the meantime, he works as an advisor for people looking to enter the property market for local company No.1 Property Guide and loves spending time with his three-year-old daughter Mia who attends most of the Seagulls’ home games.