AN impressive return to the first team from rising star Jonathan Walker has delighted Castleford Tigers coach Terry Matterson.
The powerhouse forward was in great form at the start of the season and earned selection for the England Knights squad, but his progress was checked by a knee injury suffered in the third game against Hull KR and he has been out of action for three months following surgery.
But after working hard in rehab, the 20-year-old prop was rewarded with a place on the bench for the Tigers against Harlequins last Sunday and took up where he left off with a performance that pleased his coach.
Matterson said: “It was great to have Jonny Walker back. He’s got some presence about him and he gave us some size.
“Considering he’d been out for 12 weeks it was a pretty impressive performance.
“He was in the game, he was busy, he looked big and strong and he’ll improve on that with more games. It’s good he came through unscathed.
“We’re confident that Jacko (Paul Jackson) is going to be available as well this week and he and Jonny give us the presence you need in the pack. It was something we lacked against Leeds and Warrington.
“The players coming back give us some real competition for places again.”
Matterson is hoping to have another forward, Martin Aspinwall, fit again for the Huddersfield game, while winger Nick Youngquest is close to a return.
Centre Willie Isa could also play despite being stretchered off against Harlequins with his ankle injury not as serious as first feared.
Matterson added: “It will be good to be picking from some strength this week. But it’s crucial that I get it right. We don’t want to bring four guys back who haven’t played for a long time and have a question mark hanging over whether they’re going to last the distance. It’s something I’ve got to mull over and weigh up the risks. But it’s a good position to be in to have players to choose from. after the last few weeks when it’s been difficult, especially up front.”