ALEX Walmsley is glad he had to make the phone call saying he could not take a job as a quantity surveyor – he would have been nowhere near the England squad.
And had St Helens decided to wait just one more week before signing him, he would have been no more than a fan cheering the country on.
Prop Walmsley has been called up to coach Wayne Bennett’s squad for the first time for the Test against Samoa on May 6.
It represents a further rise in the amazing ascent from student and amateur rugby league in just over five years.
Now he has revealed how close he came to heading into the world of quantity surveying until the call from St Helens came.
Walmsley, 27, said: “I’d just finished my degree. I was at Batley and I was due to start a job as an assistant quantity surveyor in Wakefield a week after I signed for St Helens.
“The week before I was supposed to start I signed for Saints. I remember going for the interview and the boss who interviewed me at the time noticed I was playing for Batley.
“He asked me, ‘You’re into your rugby, are you, but you want something long-term?’ I was 22 at the time and I was like, ‘I’ve missed out on that boat, don’t worry about that.’
“To phone them up the week before I was supposed to start and tell them I’d signed for St Helens was a bit of a shock.
“It was nerve-racking but the fella was a rugby fan, I think he was a Wakefield fan, and he understood. Thankfully, he didn’t stop me.”
Walmsley has had to battle his way to the squad this season after missing out on the 31-man Elite Training Squad of Super League players.
But his performances in what has been a disappointing campaign for his side so far have shone out and he received a call from England’s team manager Jamie Peacock on Saturday to say he is heading to Sydney for the game.
However, his mates at former amateur side Dewsbury Celtic, where he was playing along with Leeds Metropolitan University, will make sure Walmsley, forced to miss helping a Dewsbury player at a disciplinary hearing as he had to attend an England get-together, does not get ahead of himself.
He added: “With the way I was last year, with injuries and the way my body was, I did sort of expect the cut (from the ETS).
“It’s not as if I gave up hope or anything like that, I just put it to the back of my mind and thought, ‘I’ll concentrate on myself and St Helens. Whatever happens, happens.’ But I thought with me not being in the ETS, I’d really struggle for the Samoa game.
“I found out on Saturday, but Jamie phoned me a couple of weeks ago asking for some visa details, just on the off-chance. He said, ‘You’re playing well, they’re talking about you. Whether you’re in or not is another matter. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ve got a chance.’
“I still didn’t expect it though, so to get the call on Saturday was amazing, I was pinching myself a bit.
“I was playing for Leeds Met Uni and Dewsbury Celtic about five-and-a-half years ago. To be where I was, knocking about with my mates on a local field, and where I am now, heading to Australia as part of a 20-man squad playing against Samoa, is unbelievable.
“Would I have thought back then that I may have the opportunity to potentially play for England? No. My aim back then was finishing university and being a quantity surveyor, it wasn’t even signing for Batley. To get a trial there was unbelievable.
“I still keep in touch with the lads I played with at Dewsbury, they definitely wouldn’t let me get above myself! They make sure I’m grounded and if I possibly get too big for my boots, I’m sure they’ll be the first to bring me crashing back down.
“They’ll be the first to rip into me and give me grief. I’m very proud of the route that took me into the game and to have done it such a fashion where 99 per cent of rugby league players don’t make it.”
Walmsley’s rise to the international set-up is not even the only remarkable sporting achievement in his own house.
On Sunday, partner Simone Clark ran the London Marathon – while 20 weeks pregnant!
“She was incredible, she did it in six hours,” said Walmsley. “I’m so proud of her. Just doing it is amazing. She booked on to the marathon last year and insisted she didn’t want to let anyone down.
“I had to walk 10 miles to try and see her and that was hard work – she ran 26!”
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