Hawthorn’s James Worpel and Geelong’s Oscar Brownless spent many seasons with Sam Walsh playing for the Geelong Falcons in the NAB League. Now, as Walsh has successfully completed his first home and away season at AFL level, his premiership teammates provide an insight into the 2019 AFLPA Best First Year Player, presented by The Line.
Oscar Brownless (Geelong Falcons teammate)
Before Sam Walsh was drafted, I had no hesitations in him going at pick No.1. I always thought he should be a lock.
‘Walshy’ is the type of character who will continue to bring so much to Carlton both on and off-field.
When I look at the numbers he has put up this year, it doesn’t really come as a surprise to see what he has been able to achieve.
It’s probably a bit of an outrageous thing to say that you’d expect a first-year player to have a record-breaking season, but for those who knew Walshy, before he became a Carlton footballer, I’m sure they would far from shocked to see what he has achieved.
Knowing Walshy through our junior playing days, I’ve come to learn and understand his willingness to go above and beyond in training or whatever it may be to better himself.
Those attributes come through on game day and he’s been able to perform at such a high level and so consistently because of it.
You hear stories about him arriving at Carlton and already being one of their best runners in his first pre-season and I think that comes down to his competitive nature and determination.
In our time at the Geelong Falcons there would have been players who were better runners athletically, but Walshy was never going to get beaten – that’s what makes him such a star.
Walshy has the mental drive to take his game to the next level in every sense.
When you’re playing with someone of Walshy’s calibre you’re surrounded by moments that leave you amazed. But one game in our top-age year against the Eastern Ranges was particularly special.
It was quite early in the season and we were playing at Werribee when ‘DOK’ (Geelong Falcons coach Daniel O’Keefe) moved Walshy onto the forward flank.
He’d been playing in the midfield previously but ‘DOK’ wanted to shake things up.
He ran 16km on the half-forward flank and had over 40 touches!
If there were any doubters at that stage about Walshy’s ability to be taken with the first pick, he quickly showed them.
It didn’t matter where you put him, he’d find the ball and impact the game.
He’s been able to emulate that in the AFL this year and, if it was possible, he would have been worthy of earning a Rising Star nomination every round.
I’ve got no doubt that Walshy can achieve anything he sets his mind to.
The sky’s the limit!
I know it sounds cliche but it’s true.
He’s so determined and through his character and his work rate, he’s always looking to improve himself.
Seeing him progress through juniors to where he is now, I have little doubt he could become a Brownlow medallist and win multiple best-and-fairest awards.
I’m incredibly proud watching Walshy flourish in the AFL this year.
It’s always been a dream of his and now it’s become a reality.
He’s taken the game by the horns and is giving it his all. And that’s great to see.
James Worpel (Geelong Falcons captain)
Sam Walsh is one of the most hard-working, dedicated and down-to-earth players I’ve come across.
‘Walshy’ is a year younger than me and growing up through the under-18s talent pathway and playing for the Geelong Falcons, I saw firsthand the work he put in to making it at the elite level.
His hard work and dedication has shone through this season with his body being able to hold up throughout his first year in the AFL – it’s a testament to how he prepares.
I always thought Walshy would come in and play good footy this year, but he’s taken that to a whole new level as an 18-year-old. If I’m perfectly honest, I’m a little bit surprised by how dominant he’s been.
The standard he’s played at is top-notch and has made him one of Carlton’s best performing players.
I always knew he was a good player and was going to make it but he’s been able to show that talent really early – he’s gone beyond anyone’s expectations.
I think Walshy’s durability as a player and ability to play multiple roles – inside or out – is what has allowed him to have such an impact in his first season.
There’s no limit in what Walshy can achieve.
He’s got a great personality and a great football brain.
He could captain a team, win multiple best-and-fairest awards, All-Australian accolades and a Brownlow medal.
With one season down and many more to come, Walshy is going to be a great player in the coming years.
I’m looking forward to what unfolds throughout his career.
Best First Year Player Award, presented by The Line
Sam Walsh – 400
Connor Rozee – 112
Sydney Stack – 62
Jordan Clark – 16
Bailey Smith – 16