Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Kallum's Hunting the Kiwis ; Stretford Lad's Decision to Opt for the Oval Ball Has Led to a World Cup Semi-Final, Writes Ben Collins

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Kallum's Hunting the Kiwis ; Stretford Lad's Decision to Opt for the Oval Ball Has Led to a World Cup Semi-Final, Writes Ben Collins

Article excerpt

STRETFORD is hardly a hotbed of rugby league. Yet one of the men tasked with leading England to victory in tomorrow's World Cup semifinals is a former Gorse Hill Primary pupil.

And if Kallum Watkins can help the national team overcome New Zealand at Wembley, he'll be back on his home patch next weekend for the World Cup final at Old Trafford.

Most of the England players are from Wigan or Yorkshire but Watkins is a Manchester lad. After growing up in Stretford, the Leeds Rhinos centre moved to Altrincham and attended Sale High.

And while most of his schoolmates were only interested in football, Watkins opted for an oval ball thanks to his dad, who works as a labourer in Trafford Park.

"It was quite weird," Watkins told M.E.N. Sport. "I was pretty much the only one round there that went to play rugby league.

"There's some rugby union, with Trafford MV. I had a look there, I tried everything really, but it was rugby league for me. A lot of the guys at my dad's work watch rugby league and played too, and that's how we got into it - me and my older brother (Kash). We started when I was eight years old at Langworthy Reds in Salford, which was pretty much the closest place we could play.

"I made some great friends there and a lot of people are still there. I was really happy to be a part of that at such a young age and building myself to be what I wanted to be."

Prospect Watkins was signed by Leeds in 2007 and has gone on to become one of the hottest prospects in Super League. And although he now lives with his partner in Pontefract, the 22-year-old has fond memories of Manchester.

"I had a great childhood and I've got fantastic parents," he added. "My dad took me to rugby here, there and everywhere.

He's been my personal taxi really - and he still tries to come to every game.

"It's a big experience for him as well, to see his son playing rugby league, because he loves the game, he loves to watch. …

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