15th September 2017, 13:35
MEET THE TEAM: Joe Burke
In the latest instalment of our series ahead Rugby League World Cup 2017, we take a closer look at Oldham's Joe Burke.
Having played rugby league in South and North Wales, Cumbria and Greater Manchester, the 24-year-old has experienced what the sport is like in many different areas of the UK.
Born in Newport, Burke started out in rugby union with a couple of local sides, before being picked up by Pro12 club Newport Gwent Dragons.
Joe on debut for Wales against Italy
In rugby league, meanwhile, he played for Newport Titans and was then signed up by Celtic Crusaders, where he played in the U18s and reserves teams.
He has been in rugby league since and was part of the U18s side that won the National Youth League in 2009.
On the international front, he represented Wales at U18s level and featured in the side that were crowned European Nations U18s champions.
Burke made his first-team club debut with South Wales Scorpions - now Ironmen - against Hunslet in April 2010.
In his first full season in the professional ranks, he made 11 appearances in all for South Wales.
He was also given his first call-up for Wales' senior team in the June, starting on the bench for the clash with Italy at Wrexham's Racecourse Stadium.
In 2011, he continued to feature for the Scorpions and appeared for the club on 17 occasions, grabbing two tries from prop.
Joe with his Dad
Burke was also taken on loan by Crusaders RL and appeared in the Super League match with Hull Kingston Rovers.
It could have potentially led to a route into Super League for him but, unfortunately, the club folded later that year.
After playing for the Scorpions in 2012, he was called up for Wales in the autumn and came off the bench against France and England.
The following year, he again turned out for South Wales in League 1, but he was then on the move and joined Barrow Raiders - then in the Championship - ahead of 2014.
He was joined at the Raiders by Dalton Grant, who Burke grew up and had played alongside at the likes of Newport Titans, the Gwent Dragons, Celtic Crusaders, South Wales Scorpions and Wales U18s.
Despite Barrow's relegation from the Championship in 2014, the forward impressed and made 21 appearances.
His third call-up for Wales followed; he appeared in the European Championship matches with Scotland and Ireland.
Joe in action for Oldham against Featherstone
Following his commitments with the Dragons, he opted to join North Wales Crusaders for the 2015 campaign.
His first year with North Wales was a success; he made 30 appearances in total and crossed for a decent tally of five tries.
Burke featured in all three of Wales' matches during the European Championship winning camapaign in 2015.
Although he signed a new deal with Crusaders ahead of 2016, he only made three appearances and then moved to Championship club Oldham as a result of North Wales' off-the-field issues.
He has been with Oldham since, playing 22 times last season and continuing to be ever present in the current campaign.
Burke also played his part in Wales' qualification for the World Cup last autumn, featuring against Serbia and Italy.
On this season with Oldham, Burke said: "It's been a tough year; the Championship is a tough league.
Joe, his brother (centre left), Dalton Grant (left) and Dalton's brother
"Results haven't really gone our way.
"It's quite a significant points difference [for us to overturn this weekend if we are to stay up].
"But it's still undecided and we'll have to wait and see what happens.
"This weekend is obviously my last opportunity to put my hand up and do what I need to do to give myself the best chance of selection for Wales.
"I understand that it is a tough group to get selected from, but hopefully I've done enough during the season to make sure I'm there.
"Personally, I think I've done fine.
"There's always areas and parts of your game that you want to improve, but I've done fine and my body has held up well."
On possible selection for the final 24-man squad, he said: "To be selected for your country at any level is a big achievement.
"But this is the pinnacle of your career, especially with the trip that it is."
Name: Joe Burke
Current club: Oldham
Junior club: Newport Titans
Eligibility: Born in Newport, South Wales
Date of birth: 18/05/90
Welsh heritage: #469; Wales caps: 11; Wales tries: 1; first Wales appearance: 06/10/10; last Wales appearance: 29/10/16
YOU CAN SEE JOE'S FULL WALES RECORD HERE
Wales' group matches at Rugby League World Cup 2017 are as follows:
PAPUA NEW GUINEA V WALES
Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby
FIJI V WALES
WALES V IRELAND
Perth Rectangular Stadium
Get behind the lads at the World Cup by purchasing the new replica kit! Visit the online shop HERE.
Article by Ryan Gould
Images from Joe Burke and Ian Lovell