YMCA club captain Neil Walker has become the most celebrated player in the history of Huddersfield YMCA rugby union club.
For the likeable 32-year-old has completed an incredible 349 first-team appearances to create a new club record – and he’s not done yet!
After notching his 102nd first-team try and overtaking previous record-holder Steve Thorpe (348), Walker declared that he’s hoping to play at least for another couple of seasons before even thinking about calling it a day.
“My body is starting to feel its age, but I must admit the buzz still kicks in on a Saturday morning when I know I’ve got a game in the afternoon,” said Walker, who began his career as a 10-year-old in the juniors at the YM, and but for short spells at Halifax and Old Brods, has spent the rest of his time at the Laund Hill club.
He made his first-team debut in 1994, and was part of the super side who swept everything before them in 1998, culminating in the visit to Twickenham.
“Obviously that has to be the highlight of my career, that whole season, when we went through 33 matches unbeaten, won the Yorkshire League, Yorkshire Shield and finally the Tetley Bitter Trophy at down at the Twickenham headquarters.”
Walker, who was one part of the renowned quartet of back rowers, which included Phil Ounsley, Rob Davies and Marcus Throssell, is now one of just two survivors from that team, along with current player-coach Jamie Marsden.
In the 15 years Walker has been an integral part of the first team, he has scored 102 tries (the latest coming last Saturday against Knottingley), kicked 27 goals and 14 penalties for a personal haul of 606 points.
“I am really looking forward to playing again next season, because we have an exciting crop of young players now coming through and I can’t wait to play with them, and hopefully help them progress and further their rugby careers.
“Last week everything came together against Knottingley, and the whole team showed what we are capable of achieving when we are all pulling in the same direction, and there is plenty of promise there for next season.”
Walker will be 33 on St George’s Day, at the end of this month, and providing he can stay relatively injury-free (‘I’ve had one serious injury when I damaged ligaments in a knee’) he is aiming to push that list of appearances nearer to the 400 mark.
“There may be some of the lads coming through who are going to challenge me for my place in the side, but I’ll be out there battling to keep it for a year or two yet.”