No grand final nerves could match this feeling for Walters
BOXING: A manic workhorse in the number nine jersey, Rhys Walters has walked into six local rugby league grand finals on both sides of the Clarence River.
With an entire season reduced to just 80 minutes on the field, the nerves in the dressing room pre-match are palpable.
But according to the experienced hooker no amount of grand final experience could account for the nerves welling in the pit of his stomach as he prepares for today's Grafton Fight Night.
"You wouldn't think I have played in any grand finals with how nervous I am now,” he said. "(Boxing) is a bit different and something I'm not used to.”
Walters will line up against former South Grafton Rebels team-mate Jay Melrose who is representing the Nambucca Heads Roosters rugby league club in the fight.
Melrose left the Rebels after only one season at the club in 2014 in a year where he spent the second half on the sidelines after being suspended for threatening a referee.
Walters was coy on his relationship with the New Zealand born flier but admitted that it "soured” toward the end of 2014.
He said there would be no feelings in the fight when the two met tonight for the vacant North Coast Light Heavyweight title in what will be the in-ring debut for both boxers.
"We got along fine when he was playing here and we would say hello if we passed in the street but I guess you can't really be mates when you are going into a fight,” he said.
"I am not really worried what he has been doing, I am just focused on my own training.
"If he fights anything like he plays football then you know he will be quick and elusive and I will just have to combat that.”
The scrappy dummy half said he had never backed down from a fight and this would be no different, with him not willing to give an inch in the ring.
"I am probably my own worst critic when it comes to any sport but I just hate losing,” he said.
"It is in my nature to want to win it all. There is a little pressure though, at least in football if you lose, you can come back out and redeem yourself the next week.
"In boxing, it could be months before my next fight, so I don't want to lose.”
Walters has been working under the tutelage of Dean Cribb at the Grafton Amateur Boxing Club for the past six months and said it had been a major learning curve.
Fighting in an amateur bout is a lot different to a scrap on the football field according to Walters, with technical movement the key.
"It is no good to just go into it to throw punches,” he said.
"Boxing is all about footwork, every movement of your arms comes because of a movement in your feet.
"For a long time it was so frustrating trying to get my head around it, but Cribby has really sorted me out.
"I credit him 100% with getting me anywhere near ready for this fight. The amount of knowledge he has about boxing is just incredible.”
The dynamic footballer will definitely have his most special fan, daughter Ella, on his mind for the fight.
The two-year-old underwent her own fight this year battling back from a round of successive surgeries in Brisbane and Walters will use that as motivation.
"I will get to see her tonight and get a good luck kiss and cuddle in,” he said yesterday.
"I want to do her proud, I don't want to disappoint her.”
GRAFTON FIGHT NIGHT
Gates open at the Clarence River Jockey Club at 2pm today with fights starting from 2.30pm.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on the gate.