Walker’s back, Echuca got him


The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

ECHUCA Foot­ball Club has signed Carl­ton re­tired su­per­star An­drew Walker as its 2018 play­ing coach.

And he will be work­ing along­side Si­mon Mad­dox, the club’s new offfield coach.

Un­der a new-broom man­age­ment ap­proach with former Murray Bomber premier­ship player and coach Ash Byrne, the club’s pres­i­dent elect – a po­si­tion ex­pected to be rat­i­fied at the an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Novem­ber.

Walker is the club’s big­gest name player/coach sign­ing since Mi­ti­amo’s Ken Sheldon, an­other Carl­ton leg­end, came home in 2001 and coached the side to a flag.

An­nounc­ing the sign­ing of both coaches last night Byrne said it sig­nalled a new era for Echuca and, hope­fully, for the Goul­burn Val­ley Foot­ball League.

“While we haven’t achieved the suc­cess we would have wanted in re­cent years we know we are knock­ing on the door,” he said.

“We have a rock solid play­ing list, we have some of the GVFL’s most ex­cit­ing play­ers and the ma­jor­ity of those who are the core of our team have all re-signed.

“And we have an out­stand­ing crop of young­sters com­ing through the sys­tem – that our re­ten­tion rate is so good is an in­di­ca­tion, I be­lieve, of a strong club and a strong fu­ture.

“What we re­ally want is sim­ply for our club to play its best footy, be­cause when it does it is a very good team.”

Walker and Mad­dox played to­gether in the los­ing 2003 grand fi­nal side, which Byrne coached.

The three know each other very well and all agree that will be the cor­ner- stone of the club’s progress in the next few sea­sons.

“It’s been some­thing I’ve al­ways wanted to do, be­ing an Echuca boy,” Walker said from Fiji yes­ter­day, where he is hol­i­day­ing with his fam­ily.

“It was al­ways a dream, one, to play for the club, and two, to lead the club,” he said.

“It’s some­thing I’m ex­cited to do, it’s prob­a­bly hap­pened a lit­tle bit ear­lier than ex­pected but I’ve got a busi­ness open­ing there (an in­door chil­dren’s play cen­tre to be called Grav­ity Shack) on De­cem­ber 10.

“The kids are re­ally ex­cited; it’s a bit ear­lier than ex­pected. We sat down with them and gave them some op­tions, to stay in the city or to go to Echuca, and they’re ex­cited to get here.

“They have six cousins here around their age, all younger than nine.

“So I’m giv­ing up my gig at Carl­ton and mov­ing up to help get the club back to where it should be.”

Walker was Carl­ton’s de­vel­op­ment and in­te­gra­tion coach this year, help­ing the first and sec­ond year play­ers set­tle in as well as an in­dige­nous li­ai­son role (which he will con­tinue with but on a scaled-back ba­sis).

“I AB­SO­LUTELY loved coaching this year, I’m re­ally in no hurry to move on from the role but one thing we wanted to do was put a lot of time into our busi­ness,” Walker said.

‘‘I’ve been back a few times, I’ve still got a cou­ple of mates there.

‘‘Brig­gsy (2016 coach An­drew Briggs) has done a great job get­ting the club back up there, the boys started well this sea­son but in­juries are al­ways a con­cern and that’s some­thing that stopped the per­for­mances from con­tin­u­ing through the sea­son,” he said.

“Brig­gsy has put the club in a re­ally good spot for us to take over and add some­thing.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited to get back and re­ally en­joy­ing play­ing some coun­try footy.

‘‘Re­ally, that’s the rea­son we all play, be­cause we love it, and I want to bring that feel­ing back to the club.”

Walker’s play­ing prospects have also taken a gi­ant leap for­ward with his par­tic­i­pa­tion in an os­teoarthri­tis drug trial — he played 15 of 18 games (and one fi­nal) in Mel­bourne this sea­son.

It has taken his bat­tered body from a pain level of 10 to two. When he was still play­ing AFL he was hav­ing a 10cm oedema in his knee drained three times a week.

Since start­ing on the drug Pen­tosan he has not had his knee drained for a year and the oedema has been shrunk to just 1cm.

Mad­dox, who has had a year out of foot­ball af­ter coaching Moama in 2016, will be help­ing run the team from the side­lines.

And like Walker he is look­ing for­ward to “com­ing home”.

“I have been out of the game and when I was ap­proached about this role it was an in­cred­i­bly ap­peal­ing chal­lenge,” Mad­dox said.

“I agree we have a se­ri­ously strong list, and we will be look­ing at it in great de­tail soon, but might try and find one or two spe­cial­ists to help bol­ster a cou­ple of spots where we could be stronger,” he said.

“This is a new role for An­drew and me, as joint coaches – and for the club – so it will be good to see how well we can make the most of the op­por­tu­nity.

“We can’t say enough for the work Brig­gsy has done and we will be look­ing to get even fur­ther im­prove­ment out of the se­nior play­ing group with a few ex­tra ideas we will bring with us.”

He said the trio had not got as far as pre-sea­son train­ing yet.

‘‘There are still fi­nals be­ing played and I’d much rather the boys had a bit of time off from footy, get recharged and come back hun­gry and ready to get stuck into it.’’

But while Walker will be play­ing, Mad­dox scoffed at any sug­ges­tion he might also pull the boots on.

“I’m in ter­ri­ble shape, and al­though I’m only 38, not 68, I think all the play­ers can be con­fi­dent they won’t be re­ly­ing on me to have their backs on the ground,” he laughed.

‘ This is a new role for An­drew and me, as joint coaches – and for the club – so it will be good to see how well we can make the most ’ of the op­por­tu­nity Si­mon Mad­dox


COM­ING HOME: Echuca Foot­ball Club’s new joint coach An­drew Walker, with wife Kylie and chil­dren (from left) Leti, Arli and Cody. The Carl­ton leg­end will join Si­mon Mad­dox as joint coaches.


JOINT COACH: New Echuca Foot­ball Club coach Si­mon Mad­dox yes­ter­day. He said he and An­drew Walker have some ideas on help­ing lift the club back to its glory days.

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