‘BEAST’ Alex Walmsley has paid tribute to his former amateur coach Paul Heaton after rounding off a memorable season by collecting a major honour at the Cooperative Championship annual awards evening.
The exDewsbury Celtic star says he is still dreaming, having advanced through all three tiers of British rugby league inside 12 months.
And his achievement was recognised on Tuesday evening as Walmsley was named 2012 Cooperative Championship Young Player of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony.
The 22yearold attended the same event last season where he claimed the Rugby League Conference’s top individual prize – as an amateur.
But after signing a threeyear deal with Super League giants St Helens, it is likely the 6ft 5ins prop will not require an invite for next year’s event despite agreeing dualregistration terms with former club Batley Bulldogs for 2013.
Though according to Walmsley, he owes everything to Heaton, the man he claims has turned his career around at the age of 17.
“Paul deserves all of the credit in my eyes,” Walmsley, who signed for Batley as a trialist in 2011, told The Press.
“I had lost my way in the game, I couldn’t make the team and, frankly, I didn’t really want to.
“But he got me fit, he got me inspired and it has paid off. He always told me the sky was the limit and I believed him.
“I owe a huge amount to Batley and John (Kear), but even more to Dewsbury Celtic and Paul.
“I think I’ve got everything and more out of this season, it has been magical really.
“This time last year I was playing in a local cup semifinal and now I’m here, it’s a truly massive shock but I am very happy.
“I am still surprised that I played so many games for Batley. I was signed as a bit of a punt, I expected to play five or six games in order to ready myself for 2013.”
Walmsley will train full time as a Super League player as well as turning out, on one evening per week, with the Bulldogs.
He added: “I am the sort of person that takes things as they come. If I go to St Helens, I play one or two games, and it becomes a sort of feeder system then that will be fine by me. I am happy just to have signed at the moment.
“I appreciate what Batley have done for me this year and before, and I would like to be back in the frame, with them, for much of next season. It would be pretty bad of me not to honour the efforts of everyone at the club.”
Proud man Heaton, meanwhile, admits Walmsley, who was last week forced to turn down a fulltime job offer as a quantity surveyor after graduating from university with a 2:1 degree, has exceeded all expectations.
Heaton insists he was met by a young forward, in 2007, severely lacking in confidence and fitness.
Back then, a professional contract seemed “miles” away.
“Alex’s turnaround has been simply remarkable, the way he has progressed has been phenomenal to see,” he said.
“He arrived at 17 and he will tell you himself, he was overweight and his confidence was shot. He couldn't make the team and had fallen out of love with rugby.
“But we worked with him, the weight fell off dramatically and all of sudden he couldn't be stopped from making the lineup.
“I'll be honest, during the early days, I didn't think Alex would turn professional never mind enter Super League but after two or three season alongside side him, I knew it was possible.
“What he has done this season is no surprise to me. He is a very special player. Players with his bravery and dedication, who pack as much power, punch and size simply to not fall off trees.”