A loud cheer erupted as a Will Walker goal played on the big screen on Monday morning, as the 20-year-old made his return to training.
Having been sidelined since Round 22, 2018 with a partial PCL tear, a depression fracture of the tibia and a joint capsule tear, Walker’s teammates and coaches were delighted to see him back on the track.
One of those keenest to see him in action was forward-line coach, Brendan Whitecross.
“It was really positive. It added a lot of excitement and energy to the session, particularly when you’re in a position like Will has been in, where he’s missed a lot of footy,” Whitecross told North Media.
“Sometimes you can be forgotten about when you’re in rehab, and people can forget about what they were capable of. It’s good for the group to see that, and great for Will.”
Whitecross joined the club at the end of the 2018 season, and had previously not seen Walker do anything but running.
“I’ve been here a bit over 12 months and I haven’t seen him play, so I’m really excited to see what he can do, and excited for him.”
Although he hasn’t been able to impress on the field, his demeanour off the field in a tough time has earned him plenty of admirers.
“He’s really impressive,” Whitecross said.
“Particularly with young guys, they can be a lot of urgency about playing footy, and they want to do everything as quick as they can.”
“He’s very level-headed, and is a very smart kid. He understands the process, and why things have to be done a certain way and take a bit of time.
Whitecross says Walker’s smarts will put him in good stead once he is able to make a full return.
“The thing that has really impressed me is the amount of time that Will spends understanding the game plan and watching vision.
“Even though he hasn’t played a lot of footy, he has an ability to speak up in meetings and nail it, and that’s been really impressive from my point of view.
“It’s reassuring that now he’s getting back into training, when he’s involved in match simulation and in games, he’s going to know exactly what’s going on.
The number 27 made a big impression in his four AFL games in 2018, and Whitecross is excited about what he can add to an already young and dynamic forward group.
“He’s not small, but he’d be one of our smaller forwards so he adds something else. He’s hard and he has a good engine, so I’m looking forward to the pressure he can bring.
“He’s clever as well, so if he’s not create scoring opportunities himself, he can bring others into the game.
There’s still a way to go before he is back in full training or games, but the end of his issues are hopefully in sight.
“I’m excited, because now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“He’s well liked, so I think everyone wants to see him do well, not just himself.