ON THE RISE - MICHAEL WALTERS
Crafty half-forward Michael Walters had a breakout season in 2012
On the rise: Michael Walters
At a glance: Walters was drafted with pick No.53 in the 2008 NAB AFL Draft, but his career has been stunted by fitness and form troubles, with the second half of 2012 his most promising patch of football. The crafty half-forward made his debut in round 11, 2009, but played just 11 games in his first three seasons. His career hung by a thread at the start of 2012 when he was banished from the club for not meeting fitness standards, but he has since undergone a transformation. Returning to the senior team in round 16 last season, Walters played the last 10 games and kicked 22 goals, playing a key role in Fremantle's push into the finals. Now a valued member of the forward line, he has returned to pre-season training in excellent condition and will be expected to continue his progress in 2013. The midfield beckons if he can build his engine.
Plays like: Walters has similar traits to Collingwood genius Alan Didak, who played the high forward role to perfection between 2008-10. With sublime foot skills, Didak was at his most devastating when he had the running ability to rack up 20-plus possessions a game. This is clearly the next step for Walters. Didak has also been a regular goalkicker and makes the most of half chances inside 50.
Killer quality: Walters doesn't need much time or space to devastate the opposition with his left foot kick. He can spear passes onto the chests of teammates or kick long goals. Most importantly, he backs himself to execute and doesn't hesitate when he has the ball in his hands, making good decisions quickly.
Best performance: Walters proved in his first game back that he belongs in the AFL, kicking three goals against Melbourne. His entire skill set was on display, from losing his man and bursting off the back of a pack to precise kicking inside 50. The cherry on top was a pair of long-range goals in the second half, both on his left foot.
What they say: "He's come back and met his skin fold targets and his weight targets, so he's looking really good at the moment and he's a really dangerous player. He's very committed, he wants to have a good season and he wants to earn a bit more respect from the playing group and the AFL." – teammate Hayden Ballantyne
Stats that matter:
Fourth in goals (22.11)
Fifth in marks inside 50 (13 @ 1.3 per game)
Tenth in goal assists (8 @0.8 per game)
AFL Fantasy: Was $205,000 at the start of 2012 but expect a price hike of nearly $150,000