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Walker working his way back

Taylor Walker has put clowning behind him in a bid to regain his senior spot with the Crows
YOUNG forward Taylor Walker was a self-confessed clown when he first arrived in Adelaide two years ago, but a strong start to the 2010 pre-season suggests he’s anything but kidding around.

Walker, who was overlooked for AFL selection in his first year at West Lakes, made his long awaited debut against Collingwood in round one last season.

He held his spot for the next 12 games and earned a NAB Rising Star nomination for his five-goal haul against Hawthorn in round 10, but three weeks later found himself back on the outer.

Coach Neil Craig was unhappy with several areas of Walker’s game and the laconic goalkicker was sent back to work on his deficiencies at Norwood.

At the time Walker, who had kicked 23 goals in 13 games, was frustrated by his omission but after a summer of contemplation and maturation he sees the situation differently.

“I knew I had to work on a few things to get back into the team. I wasn’t quite getting them right at the time and that’s why I wasn’t playing,” Walker said.

“Craigy identified that I needed to work on my contested ball and agility if I wanted to stay in the team and I probably wasn’t doing either of those things well enough."
 
The former NSW Scholarship holder commanded attention in the SANFL kicking 29 goals in seven games, including a bag of six against eventual premiers Central District.

He was recalled to the Crows’ side in round 19, but after one largely ineffectual game was sent back to the Redlegs where he spent the rest of the season.

Walker gave himself a week to unwind with teammates in Bali at the start of the offseason before immersing himself in his training program.

By the time the first day of pre-season rolled around he’d put on 3kg of muscle and his newfound determination had become obvious to Craig.

“Taylor’s an enormously talent player in some areas, but there are one or two areas that let him down badly. We had a good, healthy conversation about it and the thing I like about Taylor is that he’s taken it onboard,” Craig said.

“I couldn’t be happier with what Taylor’s doing at the moment and when we meet as a match committee after training to debrief he’s one player being talked about.

“The coaches are sitting around saying, ‘did you see Taylor out on the track today?” It’s a great sign for a player when the coaches want to talk about him in a positive sense in debrief.”

Walker puts his change in attitude down to greater maturity.

“I feel as though I’ve matured a bit, not just as a person but as a player as well. I’ve put on a few kilograms, so I feel stronger and I’m also starting to feel as though I’m involved in the group,” he said.

“I was a bit of a clown when I first came here, but now I think I’m starting to pick my times when to have a bit of fun and when to be serious.”

Walker’s heroics for Norwood last year saw him become an instant hit with Crows fans desperately seeking a forward to replace the likes of former stars Tony Modra and Darren Jarman.

The emergence of strong marking tall Kurt Tippett should lessen the burden of expectation on the instinctive forward’s shoulders.

But it’s also increased the competition for spots in attack, with players like Brett Burton, Trent Hentschel and Shaun McKernan also looking for an opportunity.

“I would like to think I can get my spot back,” Walker said.

“I’ve just got to work on the things I need to improve and keep my nose in front of the other guys.”