Will Walker understands the impact AFL players can have on young kids who are crazy about footy.
“Jack Watts, who had been the number one draft pick the previous year, presented my jumper for my under 10’s,” Walker told North Media.
“It was the coolest thing ever, I still have the photo, and at the time it was such an awesome thing.”
Walker’s memories were sparked this week, as he headed to some local school for AFL player visits.
“Thinking back on my own experiences, working with the kids now really resonates, because it is so good for the kids, and hopefully they’ll look back on it in a few years and want to talk about it with their friends like I did,” he said.
“It makes you realize than you can make a big impact on these kids’ lives. It’s something that we take for granted sometimes, but we’re incredibly lucky to be able to play footy and be a part of an AFL team. And if we’re able to inspire some kids to continue playing and help grow the game, well, it’s pretty special.”
Clearly, the kids weren’t the only ones left in awe.
“Going out to the junior footy clubs you sort of pinch yourself a bit, because you’re out there and all these kids are gazing up at you thinking that you’re this amazing athlete, and it forces you to kind of step back and go like, ‘woah’,” Walker said.
“You get a whole range of kids. You have the cheeky ones who tell you they support Collingwood, and the super shy ones who won’t make eye contact with you. You also have the really nervous, but really excited ones.
“The kids are just coming up to us and asking questions, and tugging on our shirts, and kicking the footy to us. When the kids are that excited it’s hard not to have a good time.”
Though the life of an AFL player is busy and full of pressure, Walker says community visits like these are well worth the time.
“If you can make an impact on the lives of the kids or help them have a great footy experience, then that’s really special and something that none of us mind doing,” he stated.
North Melbourne AFL players visited over 750 students across the 11 primary schools, and a further 500 junior footballers across 10 Western Region Football League clubs.