Crows star Walker battles back ailment ahead of opener

Steve Larkin |

Adelaide hope Taylor Walker’s back problems don’t sideline him for their AFL opener at Gold Coast.
Adelaide hope Taylor Walker’s back problems don’t sideline him for their AFL opener at Gold Coast.

Adelaide remain hopeful attacking linchpin Taylor Walker will play in their AFL season-opener, despite back spasms sidelining him from recent training.

The 33-year-old Walker, who last year became the oldest player to earn a first All Australian jumper, has missed the past two sessions ahead of the Crows’ away trip to Gold Coast on Saturday night.

“Being a veteran of many, many pre-seasons, he’s just managing his body the best way that he knows how,” teammate Ben Keays told reporters on Tuesday.

“I have seen him around the place so hopefully it’s going to be all good.

“He has done pretty much the whole pre-season again which is just phenomenal for us younger guys to look up to a veteran like that, seeing how he trains through the summer.

“He has done everything he can to this point and hopefully we get him out there because he’s super-important to us, a leader of the club, fantastic for our forward line.”

Walker’s fitness looms large for the Crows given the knee injury to fellow forward Riley Thilthorpe, who will miss the initial three months of the AFL season.

Thilthorpe suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee in the final quarter of Adelaide’s trial game against West Coast on March 2.

His absence leaves open the back-up slot for lead ruckman Reilly O’Brien, with recruit Chris Burgess in the frame to debut for the Crows after moving from Gold Coast last season.

“One thing I have enjoyed from Chris is his defensive stuff,” Keays said.

“He’s quite athletic, he’s quite quick and quite agile as well, as a tall player he is able to put that defensive pressure on (and) is really valuable to the team.

“He has done some ruck work as well, as a back-up ruckman.”

Gold Coast opened their season with a 39-point trouncing of Richmond as Adelaide, who didn’t play last weekend, tuned up for the start of their campaign.

The Crows would have played finals last year if not for an umpiring error which cost them a round 23 victory over Sydney, when a Keays goal was incorrectly called as a behind.

“Just try to see it as an opportunity and a reason to be more hungry really, that’s all you can do with something like that,” Keays said reflecting on Adelaide’s near miss.

“That is what I have tried to do and that is what the whole club has tried to do.

“We’re going to … use it to fuel us rather than sit and stew on it.”

AAP