NO one could accuse Dolphin Nick Walker of not having patience.
Despite boasting 30 Queensland Cup appearances on his resume, the blond-headed forward did not crack a top grade spot at Redcliffe until last month's romp over Brothers Valleys at O'Callaghan Park.
An injury to stalwart Andrew Wynyard provided Walker with the opportunity to show his wares in the Cup again. And he did not let his supporters down with a robust outing against the competition newcomers.
Walker's elevation was all the more meritorious after he was late starting the season. ``It was a good experience to get a start in the top side,'' he said. ``I played both second-row and prop and ended up getting about 50 minutes, which was excellent. ``I didn't start training until two weeks before the season kicked off as I had work commitments and I initially wasn't going to play this season.''
Walker joined the Dolphins at the start of the 2003 season after three years with Brisbane Norths as a Melbourne Storm signing. Walker had been lured to the big smoke from Toowoomba club Valleys and the league hotbed of his Christian Brothers school St Mary's. ``I was 17 when I linked with Storm and I played my first season in Colts at Norths and we won the premiership,'' he said. ``The next two years were in first grade with the Devils.''
Walker, who is no relation is the other Walker football hierarchy from Toowoomba, established his own credentials at Bishop Park with selection in the Queensland under 19 side and then the Junior Kangaroos in 2001, which played the Kiwis in Wellington.
Among Walker's team-mates were current NRL stars Braith Anasta, Cameron Smith, Matt Bowen and Michael Luck. Although he admits to frustration at times, 21-year-old Walker has bided his time at Dolphin Oval. "Playing reserves with Redcliffe is really tough,'' he said. "I can see that Braith Anasta has played for Australia and I'm playing reserve grade, but I will stick it out. I'd like another crack at the NRL ranks and I can do it via Redcliffe.''
Walker scored an A grade premiership in his first year with the club after arriving at the club from a three-month stint with Gateshead in the English first division. "I had signed with Redcliffe but then I had the opportunity to go to England,'' he said. "I enjoyed my time with Gateshead, which used to be in the Super League but got relegated. Although it was a bit cold, I would go back at some other time." Walker said he welcomed the professionalism at Dolphin Oval. ``I've got the bug again after playing in the top side and this certainly makes you even keener,'' he said. ``They are a good bunch of blokes, even though I didn't know too many from my time in Colts. "But there's plenty of competition for spots and it's a very hard side to break into. I see myself as a combination of attacker and defender and I also like to run the ball as well as act as a ball player.'' Redcliffe's backrow traditionally has been one of the side's backbones and this season shapes as no exception.
Week-in week-out, veteran Danny Burke competes with Wynyard, Grant Flugge and Ben Jones for spots, along with boom youngster Gavin Cooper, so the 101 kilogram Walker will need to play at his top to make the Premier Grade 17. But the Downs product is set to stay in Brisbane after buying a home at Kallangur and working as a sub-contractor for Yellow Couriers. "I start work early and find myself all over the city,'' he said. "I know Brisbane pretty well now. You could say I'm pretty settled in Brisbane.'' But he has retained some country ties with his nickname "Tex'' staying with him from his schooldays in Toowoomba. "There were heaps on Walkers at school and the TV program Walker Texas Ranger with Chuck Norris was popular and I got labelled with Texas and it has stuck,'' he said.Like