A remarkable season of individual accolades has Geelong Falcons on-baller Sam Walsh clearly in the frame to be the first player picked at this week’s NAB AFL Draft.
After winning the most disposals for the Falcons in their 2017 TAC Cup premiership victory as a bottom-ager, the 18-year-old St Joseph’s (Geelong FL) product proceeded to take all before him in 2018 as one of the country’s most well-rounded midfielders.
Walsh averaged 32 disposals, five marks and five tackles per game in 12 TAC Cup matches as Geelong’s co-captain alongside Oscar Brownless, taking out the club’s best-and-fairest award and being selected in the TAC Cup Team of the Year.
He also co-captained Vic Country at the AFL U18 Championships, where he won the Larke Medal for the best player in Division 1 of the carnival (despite Country losing all four of its games) and was later named the U18 All Australian team’s skipper.
“They’re not things that you think about, those individual accolades,” Walsh said at the recent AFL Draft Combine, where he finished second in the Yo-Yo Test and third in the 2km time trial. “But I suppose (having) that mindset to play my role for the team – a lot of things just stem from that.
“I’ve been very lucky and honoured to lead a lot of teams. To captain Australia (the AFL Academy against North Melbourne’s VFL team in April) was one of those massive ones you definitely don’t take lightly.
“It’s something I’ve always tried to work on, my leadership, and I think those relationships you create through footy hold you in good stead.”
If he does end up joining Carlton with Thursday’s first selection, the calmness Walsh has shown this year both in contests on the field and in the face of plenty of speculation about his draft chances off it should also work in his favour at AFL level.
“I like to think my vision and reading of the game, and decision-making – and then well rounded by endurance… (are) strengths of my game and hold me in good stead,” he said.
“I’d love to go (at pick) no.1, but I’d love to be picked anywhere as well. It is talked about a fair bit and I try not to get caught up in that; I think once you start reading into that, that’s when your form will probably start to plummet.
“I’ve tried to keep my mindset pretty set on what team I’m playing for week by week and it seemed to work pretty well this year.”
THE AFL DRAFT WATCH ‘FAST FIVE’ with Sam Walsh
Why should an AFL club draft you?
“I believe I’m a great character to have around the club, willing to work hard and get the best out of myself and the people around me as well.”
What is the funniest or weirdest question you’ve been asked by an AFL club?
“An AFL club asked me to take on the persona of David Warner in the ball-tampering situation, which was a tricky one and a bit of fun as well.”
Who is your football idol?
“I look up to a lot of players, but growing up it was (ex-Brisbane champion) Jonathan Brown.”
Who will be selected with pick no.1 in the 2018 AFL Draft?
“Jack Lukosius (South Australia). His ability to find the footy in a marking situation, his kicking and reading of the game stands out.”
Which of your 2018 teammates should also be in draft consideration?
“There are certainly a few, but the main two that stand out are Oscar Brownless and Ned McHenry, who have put in good seasons at the Falcons and school level. They are great people to be around as well.”