Joey Walton: The public school kid tearing the Australian Schoolboy trials apart

Rugby isn’t played as much as it should be in public schools, but no one told Joey Walton.

The NSW Schools centre from Wadalba High School on the NSW Central Coast is turning heads for a second straight year at the Australian Schools Championships.

And this probably won’t be the last time you hear his name.

“I started playing rugby when I was nine for the Warnervale Wildcats and I’ve played there ever since in juniors and now in grade,” he told Rugby News

“League is pushed pretty hard in my school but I’ve always preferred rugby and have just focussed on that.”

Walton was relatively unknown heading into last year’s NSW Schools trials but starred for Combined High Schools (CHS) against their more fancied GPS rivals.

That was enough to earn the then 16-year old a spot in the 2017 NSW I squad, but he still wasn’t done yet.

“I had no expectations last year, I really just enjoyed the opportunity of getting to play in a sky blue jersey.

“Obviously after the tournament I wasn’t named in any of the schoolboys squads so I just went away and worked on my skills and kept training hard. Then out of the blue I got the call up into the Australian Barbarians squad.

“It was a real honour. I was the only CHS boy, so it was a bit lonely at the start but it was a really enjoyable experience.”

Despite the talent of their star pupil, rugby still isn’t played at Wadalba High and Walton thinks we’d see a lot more CHS players in sky blue and gold jerseys if that trend started to change.

“We had our CHS trials out in Dubbo this year and there was plenty of really impressive talent out there,” he said.

“The Waratah Cup and Waratah Shield is really important I think. It’d be good to see more public schools play in those tournaments. My school has never played in it but hopefully we’ll see that change.”

But for now, Walton is focussed on helping his side continue their unbeaten start to the Australian Schools Championships, which continues tomorrow when NSW I play QLD II.

“The coaches have been giving us a few simple things to focus on each game and so far I think we’ve been executing them pretty well. We’ve scored plenty of points so far, which has been a lot of fun.

“Angus Collison is a prop from Barker College but he’s ended up having to play in the backrow and has gone really well for us. The whole team has gelled really well together and I think everyone is just enjoying their rugby at the moment.”

NSW I can book a spot in Saturday’s Australian Schools Championship final with a win over QLD II tomorrow and although the Australian Schoolboys selectors will be keeping a close eye on proceedings, Walton is trying to not look too hard ahead.

“We just need to keep playing well as a team and hopefully everything else will take care of itself,” he said.

“Obviously everyone at this tournament wants to get picked in the schoolboys side but if you win the tournament, you give yourself a better shot at getting picked, so that’s the main focus.”

Day three of the Australian Schools Championships starts at 10am at Riverview tomorrow when Victoria take on ACT. WA face Combined States at 11:30am, then NSW II play QLD I at 1pm and NSW I QLD II play at 2:30pm.