Hunslet have made a significant addition to their side, ahead of business end of the regular Betfred League 1 campaign, by tempting experienced goal-kicking stand-off Patrick `Patch’ Walker out of retirement.
`Patch’, 36, hung up his boots (in the event, temporarily) in 2019 after a successful career with Dewsbury Rams, Sheffield Eagles and Batley Bulldogs, and he freely admits that the family connection – and his sheer hunger for Rugby League – were key factors in his decision to return to the fray.
He says: “I’ve continued to turn out in charity games since retiring but my return to the professional ranks has been prompted by Hunslet’s recent signing on loan of my nephew, Jackson Walker, while my brother James enjoyed a few seasons at the South Leeds Stadium.
“When the Parksiders found out that I’m Jackson’s uncle head coach Alan Kilshaw checked out whether I’d be interested in signing, and the approach whetted my appetite. I’ve missed playing over the last three years. You’re a long time retired, so it was an opportunity I didn’t waste any time pondering about.”
He admits: “It’s good to be back. I can certainly bring something to the cause, helping guide the many talented young players in the squad around the park. It’ll be about being vocal on the field of play as much as anything.”
`Patch’, who is a product of the successful Dewsbury Moor system, played amateur Open Age Rugby League with Shaw Cross Sharks before turning professional with Dewsbury Rams, where he succeeded Francis Maloney at stand-off (“that was very much a case of being thrown in at the deep end”, he recalls). Since retiring he has kept himself fit, particularly in the last six months, during which he has spent plenty of time in the gym, and he completes five-kilometre runs faster than he did in his last season. “It’s now about achieving match fitness,” he insists. “I’m looking forward to playing a real part in Hunslet’s progress, not least because of the strong family connection.”
“We have been speaking to Patch for a few weeks now and I’m delighted to have got him to the end of the season at least,” says Kilshaw, adding, “a player of his experience and quality in the halves is a real rarity at the moment.
“When I learned he was having itchy feet in his retirement I didn’t hesitate to try and sell the club to him. He is a Championship quality stand-off who has achieved success at every club he has been at.
“Not only will his influence on the pitch be hugely beneficial but our younger halfbacks can also learn from him off the field. With another signing currently imminent, we now have everything in place for a really good second half of the season to build on the great work that has already been done already.”