CLEVER CLOGS Alex Walmsley reckons the days of rugby league boozing are over.
The stereotypical image of a prop in the 13-a-side code is a lager-drinking fella who is hardly as fit as a fiddle.
But St Helens ace Walmsley is cut from a different cloth. Educated and well spoken, he is also extremely well read.
He hopes that unorthodox route will bring the best out of him after being selected in England boss Wayne Bennett’s 24-man World Cup squad.
Walmsley, whose son Atticus is named after Atticus Finch from his top book, To Kill A Mockingbird, said: “It’s a stereotype I’m trying to change.
“But I think the days of rugby league props only being bothered about drinking pints and playing rugby are over.
“Reading has always been part of my life, I’ve always enjoyed books.
“The route I’ve come through, through university, isn’t a normal route.
“But I believe to play at the highest level in any sport you can’t be lacking in education.
“The way rugby league is played nowadays, you’ve got to be smart.”
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Now uncapped Walmsley is ready for a World Cup which takes place in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea and starts on October 27.
He joked: “An England Rugby League book club hasn’t been suggested, though, and I won’t be suggesting it! I need to get myself a nice, big book for the trip as it’s not just a 24-hour flight but a seven-week stay.”
Walmsley’s England call-up is the culmination of a remarkable rise.
Five years ago, he was playing amateur rugby at Dewsbury Celtic and Leeds Metropolitan University, and studying for a quantity surveying degree.
And after progressing through Batley, he was snapped up by St Helens and established himself as the man coach Justin Holbrook claimed is Super League’s best prop.
But Walmsley, 27, knows he faces some big threats on the world stage — not least Tonga.
He said: “There’s some big teams — it’s not just England, Australia and New Zealand any more.
“You’ve got Tonga, Samoa and France.
“It’s no longer the case that the ‘Big Three’ are head and shoulders above everyone else.
“Myself, Jonny Lomax, James Roby, Mark Percival and Tommy Makinson had this message group going on Sunday.
“Messages were flying around all day, ‘Have you had the call yet?’
“I was trying to be cool but I was checking every minute. It came a bit later than we thought it would.”
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