Walker's inspiration for next generation
RUGBY UNION: "I know it sounds cliche, and I don't want to sound cocky, but if I can inspire just one indigenous kid to chase their dreams then that would be everything for me.”
If there is anything former Yamba Buccaneers junior rugby star Cody Walker knows, it's how to chase his dreams to the big stage.
And it is something he hopes to pass on to the next generation.
Walker realised his dreams earlier this year when he represented his country at the Under-20 Rugby World Cup in Georgia, but it only got better when he got home with the NSW Waratahs offering the 19-year-old a two-year contract to join their Super Rugby squad.
Walker was part of a youth brigade called up by Waratahs coach Darryl Gibson as the NSW side aims to reverse its fortunes following a dismal season in 2017.
"Everyone here is working hard to turn all that around,” Walker said after coming out of another long pre-season session.
"Daryl has been amazing, along with all the other coaches. It is just one of those pre-seasons where everyone is head down and working as hard as they can.
"It took me a bit to get into it, and I struggled to keep up in the first week, but as we get longer into it, I am enjoying it so much.”
It has been a long road for the Waratahs front rower, who grew up on the mission at Baryulgil before moving with his family to Yamba.
A top-class junior rugby player, Walker represented Australian Schoolboys and earned a scholarship to Kinross Woolaroi School in Orange, where he was taught by some of the country's best junior rugby coaches.
It is a journey that Walker wants to use to inspire the next generation, and he had his first opportunity on a recent road trip out to schools in the Western Plains region.
Walker joined Waratahs teammate Patty Ryan on the trip as they visited disadvantaged kids throughout the region.
"I jumped at it straight away, it was something I had never had as a kid growing up in Tabulam,” he said.
"A lot of the kids around me growing up were great talents but they didn't have the drive because they didn't know it was possible.
"There is a big indigenous population among the kids out that way, and I just wanted to connect with them and show them it is possible to reach the top.
"When the kids heard I was an indigenous player, they really drilled in and listened. That moved me.”
Walker said he hoped to get back home to Yamba as the Waratahs take a break from pre-season training for the Christmas holidays.
The Super Rugby season starts on February 17.