Alex Walmsley believes there is untapped talent in the Kingstone Press Championship just waiting to prove themselves at Super League level - and he speaks with some authority on the issue.
A few years ago he was one of hundreds of young hopefuls already enjoying life in the backwater of his chosen sport but waiting for one of the big guns to spot his potential.
Now in only his second season at St Helens after an out-of the-blue move from Batley Bulldogs, he is a regular starter in coach Nathan Brown’s squad and with his sights firmly set on Challenge Cup and Super League glory this season.
“It was a dream come true when I played for Batley, never mind Saints, but I feel there are other Championship players capable of stepping up if given the same chance as myself,” said the 23-year-old 6ft 5ins, 18 st prop forward.
Walmsley, who had first been spotted by the Bulldogs playing for Dewsbury Celtic and Leeds Met Carnegie, said: “To be honest I am surprised that Super League clubs have not trawled the Championship more because I’m convinced there are players who could do a good job at top level.
He cited Warrington Wolves’ fellow prop Chris Hill as a prime example of a player who bridged the gap between the Championship and Super League, leaving Leigh Centurions to join Warrington and picking up a winners’ medal in the 2012 Wembley victory over Leeds Rhinos and also receiving international recognition.
Playing for his country, however, is not currently at the forefront of Walmsley’s mind.
“My mother is from north of the border and I suppose I’m half a Jock and available to play for Scotland as well as England, but at this moment in my career I am totally focussed on cementing a first spot at St Helens and development my talent further.”
Walmsley has been starting games this season rather than emerging from the the bench and admits it is something he is now getting accustomed to.
“When I was at Batley, I only ever started one game under coach John Kear, so it is a new challenge for me but one that I am enjoying, and I am playing more minutes, which is good.”
“Browny has tried me there and he wanted me to play in short stints. I am not going to complain because it gives me more time to recover and allows me to be more explosive.
“When you have got team-mates like Kyle Amor doing the hard graft that helps my game, too.”