Carlton will be desperate to give favourite son Andrew Walker the farewell he “deserves” in Sunday’s AFL clash at the MCG.
Walker announced earlier this week he would retire after tackling St Kilda, with a debilitating knee injury having taken its toll.
The 30-year-old will be best remembered by AFL fans for his spectacular mark in 2011.
But at Princes Park it is his work ethic and professionalism that coaches will miss most.
John Barker, an assistant coach at the Blues for much of Walker’s career, says the forward routinely set the standard at pre-season training.
“I remember he’d come back and just win time trial after time trial, after time trial,” Barker said.
“He has a mindset where the off-season is not a time to let the hair down for two months.
“It’s a time to let the body repair, prepare yourself for another solid pre-season .. that has an impact on young players.
“I know the boys will be really proud if they can get the job done for him and he deserves that sort of performance from us.”
Barker paid tribute to the fact Walker will finish with 202 games despite a series of setbacks.
“He’s had a body that has been failing in recent years,” he said.
“But because he was so meticulous with his preparation, it allowed him to keep fighting through and keep being an effective player for us.
“He’s super quick but has also got a massive tank. He was a team-orientated player but had flashes of brilliance.”
None more brilliant than ‘that mark’, when Walker used Essendon defender Jake Carlisle as a stepladder.
“I remember the excitement through the box then it just went quiet, it was almost like everyone stopped coaching for about 10 seconds to watch the replay,” Barker said.
Even without Walker’s swansong, the Blues won’t be lacking in motivation according to Barker.
They have made significant gains during Brendon Bolton’s first season in charge but must aim to make plenty more in the final four rounds.
“We want to learn and get better each week. We don’t want to get to the end of the year and think – gee, we wasted four weeks,” Barker said.