NOT MANY draft prospects have pieced together as complete an under-18 season as Sam Walsh was able to in 2018.
The Geelong Falcons star began his year by being named a co-captain of the TAC Cup club, before also captaining the NAB AFL Academy and Vic Country at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
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He was picked as an All Australian after a terrific and consistent carnival and also named the Larke medallist as the best player in the series.
His peers also picked him as the Ben Mitchell medallist as the player best displaying the qualities of the AFL Academy, and Walsh was picked as the captain of the TAC Cup team of the year. It's been quite the season.
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Where do you start? Walsh ticks most boxes as a midfield prospect. Can he run? Yep, he came second in the Yo-Yo test and third in the 2km time trial at the NAB AFL Draft Combine. Can he find the ball? He averaged 32 touches in the TAC Cup and 29 disposals across the under-18 carnival.
This year he became more of an inside midfielder out of necessity as he played in some struggling sides (nearly half of his touches at the carnival were won in contested situations), but he's also strong on the outside with his run and ability to deliver the ball inside 50.
Add to that Walsh's leadership, footy smarts, toughness, popularity amongst his peers and dedication and it's hard not to be impressed by the overall package he offers. He was tagged at different stages of the season and also worked through that experience, and he's shown when near goal he can hit the scoreboard, too.
If you're nitpicking Walsh probably doesn't have the same explosive burst of speed that other midfielders might from a stoppage. But he's not slow. He tested at 3.00 seconds over 20m at the Combine, so it's not really a concern. He's on the lighter side so will probably start more as an outside midfielder at AFL level.
Walsh watches Greater Western Sydney gun Josh Kelly and tries to pick up pieces of his game, and they do share a bit in common. Kelly's endurance is his key asset and Walsh has been described by recruiters as the most bulletproof midfielder to come through the draft since Kelly in 2013.
He's been viewed as the leading contender to be Carlton's No.1 pick, but if they look elsewhere, Gold Coast will swoop at No.2 or 3.
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Walsh couldn't have done any more this year. He wants to be the No.1 pick and would be a deserving choice. In him a club will get a long-term player and leader to build their team around.