Billy Walters is all in on a permanent switch to hooker next season but knows a talented youngster is lurking in the background ready to swoop on the No.9 jersey at some point in 2023.
The 28-year-old came off the bench, filled in at five-eighth and officially started 13 games at hooker last season before he inked a new two-year deal to keep him at the Broncos until the end of 2024.
While he started out his career hoping to play in the halves like his dad Kevin Walters, he’s ready to make a permanent switch to dummy-half next year as he battles a number of Brisbane hopefuls for the jersey.
Walters will duke it out with Cory Paix, young gun Blake Mozer and Tyson Smoothy, who joined the club in the off-season.
“It’s always good to have competition for the No.9 jersey,” Walters said.
“We all know that no one has got their hands on it yet. That’s up for anyone to work hard, train hard and play well in the trials.
“Even if you do get it in round 1, it’s not a guaranteed thing (that you’ll keep your spot). I know I’ll be trying my best to get it and I know I’ve got a lot of people trying to get the same position.”
Brisbane’s spine looks threatening on paper with the experienced Adam Reynolds partnering Ezra Mam in the halves, while Reece Walsh has returned to the club and will likely win the battle to play fullback.
But dummy-half is going to be the most contentious selection given no one was able to lock down the position last season.
If Walters is to make the position his own, he knows he’ll have to work on his running game to attract the markers and make defenders second guess themselves around the ruck.
“I need to be more of a threat out of nine,” he conceded after finishing 2022 with just two try assists.
“You look at the best nines in the game like Harry Grant, Damien Cook and Api Koroisau, they all run and they’ve got deception around the ruck.
“If I can start doing that a bit more and work on my combinations with the forwards (then I’ll be better). I didn’t get to do a pre-season with them last year because I did the whole pre-season in the halves.
“That’s a big asset this year because I get to work on combinations with them and hopefully learn how they like to play, and they can learn how I like to play.”
Walters joked that he’d be back playing reserve grade if he wanted to return to the halves and praised premiership winner Matt Ballin’s guidance for helping him develop his game at dummy-half.
“He’s got a lot of experience in that role,” he said.
“He’s won comps and he’s played Origin, so he knows how to play that role well. He’s been helping us a lot and helping us with that deception around the ruck.
“He’s a big asset.”
While Walters is on track to start the season, teenager Mozer is waiting in the wings and appears to be the club’s long-term option given he re-signed until the end of the 2025 season.
Mozer is still learning his craft and will only get better with more opportunities in reserve grade after playing several matches last season on top of his duties with the Queensland under-19s side.
“I think he’s just got to play a little bit more Cup,” Walters said, adding that Mozer is dealing with a shoulder injury.
“I think he only played a couple of games last year and it’s a big step going from 18s to even Cup and then to NRL.
“The more he gets to tackle grown men, and the more he gets used to it and his body starts to handle it, he’ll probably be there at some point this year.”
Story Credit: news.com.au