Bradford Bulls forward Walker: Timing of my union switch was wrong but Burgess can be a big hit (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford Bulls forward Chev Walker: Timing of my union switch was wrong but Sam Burgess can be a big hit
The Bulls forward switched codes from Leeds Rhinos to Bath in 2006 in a deal part-funded by the Rugby Football Union.
Walker made his debut for Leeds as a 16-year-old and, by the end of 2005, he had scored 75 tries in 156 appearances for his hometown club.
“I have been tracking Chev for some time and he has a lot to offer rugby union,” said England coach Andy Robinson in June 2006.
A year later and Walker was back in Super League with Hull KR.
“Looking back now, it was probably the wrong time for me to go,” said the 31-year-old.
“I was ready for a new challenge but too scared to go to another Super League club.
“Going there and being in Bath at that age, I wasn’t as mature and aware of myself as maybe Sam Burgess is, even though I was a similar age.
“Maybe if I was going now, and was still in the same kind of form as I was back then, it might be different. I don’t think I was aware of my ability to succeed.”
Walker’s girlfriend Lauren, now his wife, did not settle in the West Country.
“We were both young at the time and if we had been married going down there it might have been different,” he said.
“I don’t look back with any regrets because the bigger regret would have been not actually trying it.
“I don’t think I’d have been able to live with that, so not sticking it out and pursuing it as much as I could have done is a kind of a regret but not a massive one. I can cope with it.
“I was there for just over a year and out of the 24 available games, I played 18 and progressed into the Saxons.
“My progression was sweet and I did enjoy it; the people were great and the professionalism at Bath was brilliant.”
Walker believes Burgess’ decision to quit South Sydney and move to the Recreation Ground could allow the ex-Bradford prodigy to prove himself the best player in the world in both codes.
Walker said: “You could see with Sam’s performance in the World Cup semi-final that he wanted to make a statement against Sonny Bill Williams.
“Sam eclipsed Sonny Bill in that match, without a doubt.
“He’d done it in the NRL when he had skittled him and he did it in that semi-final, when he was the best player on the field, so why can’t he do it in union too?
“People harp on about the financial side of things but Sam’s financially secure anyway and for me it’s about the challenge.
“It hurts us as a sport but what bigger compliment could be there than them taking our best players to play in their World Cup squad?”
Burgess will face a race against time to prove himself worthy of a spot in Stuart Lancaster’s World Cup squad next year.
Walker added: “You’d like to think Sam can adapt quickly with his skill set and professionalism.
“Playing in centres in union is like playing back-row in rugby league, so there are similarities.
“It’s just a matter of whether he can get up to speed and if he’s in form at the right time next year.
“There are a lot of good centres in rugby union right now and if he doesn’t make it then it won’t be for a lack of desire.”