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Walker a ‘true family man’

Former Carlton best and fairest winner Andrew Carrazzo talks about best mate Andrew Walker ahead of the Blue veteran’s 200-game milestone this weekend.

I first met Walks when I was 19 years old. I had been in the system at Geelong for two years but we arrived at the Blues at the same time and he was a fresh faced 17-year-old after being selected as the recent No.2 draft pick.

We were sitting in the old rooms at Carlton and I was pretty nervous coming to a new club and learning everyone’s name. Walks and I had an instant connection and got along really well right from the start.

We were of a similar ages, had similar personalities and similar humour and both came from really strong families, so we hit it off immediately.

But I remember being in awe of how young he was while being such a good runner. He came into the club and straight away was right up the front in all the time trials and stuff like that.

I was instantly jealous of him because he made it look so bloody easy and I had to absolutely work my tail off just to try and get within 100 metres of him, so he was a pretty special athlete – that’s the thing that struck me straight away.

We played together for 12 years and looking at our time at Carlton, we had a pretty similar career arcs – we both had our fair share of injuries but we also played some really good footy together. I’d definitely say from my time in footy I would be closest to Walks out of anyone.

During his time at Carlton, he’s really matured as the years have gone on. When he was young, I don’t think he fully grasped how good of a leader he could be and how strong his presence was among the group.

A lot of guys were in awe of Walks and the physical things he could do on the field but he had great leadership capabilities and it’s something that has really started to sink in with him in the last couple of years.

“He’d kick over drink stands, sink the boot into a few witches hats and generally behave like a two-year-old” – Carrazzo on Walker

His talents are obvious to see. He can take big marks, he’s a great runner and a beautiful kick who can score great goals but it’s the leadership side of things that’s very underrated and I’m stoked he’s realised that while he has some good footy left in him.

Another thing is that during his younger days he used to be one of the greatest dummy spitters of all time. If something didn’t go his way, it wouldn’t be rare to see him throw a tantrum in front of everyone.

He’d kick over drink stands, sink the boot into a few witches hats and generally behave like a two-year-old. Like I said before, he’s matured a lot over the years, thankfully.

He’s obviously had a lot of injuries during the journey to 200 games, but I look at the injuries a bit differently to some. Aside for the fact that he’s physically not out there playing as much footy as he would’ve wanted too, I think it’s built a really good resilience in him that might not have been there if the injuries hadn’t have happened.

Besides his shoulder injuries, a lot of the other stuff has been a by-product of how hard he works. I’d say a lot of the other injuries are because of how hard he trains and prepares. If he didn’t work that hard he might not have played 200 games and might be out of the system already, so the injuries have made him a stronger person.

It’s also a sign of how bloody hard he works – he works as hard as any player I’ve ever played with.

He’s also a really driven and competitive person and that drew me to him initially. While there is an element of him that wants to put on a show for everyone with spectacular marks and running goals, it’s that competitive spirit that I love about him.

That stems from his family. His brother and sister are really competitive people and I know he would’ve had to fight for everything against Benny – his brother – growing up. His mum and dad are lovely people and obviously instilled a workmanlike attitude in him.

Off the field, he has a great sense of humour. I think when people first meet him he can be a touch shy if you don’t know him. He has a big heart and when you win him over a little bit, he’ll show you the true person that he is.

He can be a bit immature and is still a kid at heart which I hope never changes. One thing I’ve missed since leaving the footy club is the childish and silly jokes we used to carry on with.

It’s no secret he’s a decent musician and he has that in his genes with his father and brother being pretty incredible musicians themselves. He certainly doesn’t need any encouragement to get the guitar out and show everyone how good he is though.

He’s a bit of freak like that, almost anything he touches he becomes good at which is a bit sickening and unfair for guys like me.

We’ve also spent a fair bit of time together in Walks’ hometown of Echuca. We have an annual trip up there during at the start of each year where a few of us go water skiing and maybe go out and have a few drinks afterwards. That weekend is something I pencil in on the calendar and even 12 months out I look forward to it. I love Echuca, it’s a great place and I can see why it’s made Walks the person he is today.

Whenever we make our way into town he is a bit of a rock star and is obviously revered in the local community. His brother also has a big profile around the place too, so I’d be very surprised if Walks didn’t go back to Echuca when he hangs up the boots because it’s a special place for him.

On a serious note though, people know him for the footballer he is but he really loves his family. I know he loves seeing his kids grow up and get into a bit of sport nowadays.

He’s a true family man.