Walker to make AFL return after racism ban

Steve Larkin |

Adelaide’s Taylor Walker is being backed to overcome possible hostility and lack of match fitness when he makes his AFL comeback from a racism ban.

Walker returns to face an away Essendon crowd at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, having served his six-game suspension for making a racist remark last August.

Walker hasn’t played at any level this year, with the AFL blocking an Adelaide request to allow him to play trial matches.

His lack of match play was weighed against his status as a former skipper and the club’s all-time leading goalkicker at selection, assistant coach Nathan van Berlo says.

“We will back him in, not having any match fitness to date,” van Berlo told reporters on Wednesday.

“But obviously he has been in the system for a long time now and we back in that experience to help him.

“He brings a lot to our forward group – understanding he has missed a fair bit of footy, but the way that he has trained and his experience will help complement our mix.”

Captain Rory Sloane appears set to return from a groin injury while Walker replaces the axed Darcy Fogarty.

Last August, Walker was banned by the AFL for six games for his racist comment to a teammate at a state league game.

The 31-year-old took some time to decide to play out the final year of his contract in 2022.

The Crows expect to manage the game time of Walker, who also performed Indigenous community work during his ban.

“Tex, his nature is he is always up and about,” van Berlo said.

“He’s a fair barometer for the group in terms of our energy so he will certainly be excited to get back out there.

“I know he has been itching to play a game of footy at any level for the last probably few months and he hasn’t been able to do so.

“He will be ready to go come Sunday. He may be a bit rusty and he may be blowing a fair bit.

“But we will back in his experience and the way that we manage him to hopefully help out the guys ahead of the ball.”

Fogarty, who has been goal-less since booting two majors in round one, makes way.

“There’s definitely elements of his role around impacting on games,” van Berlo said of the 22-year-old.