TO WILL Walker, you can't be forgotten if you're a never-was.
North Melbourne's four-gamer – on the way back from a long-term knee injury – says he hasn't "done anything" and doesn't yet deserve to be mentioned among the Roos' batch of young guns.
That group includes this year's four NAB AFL Rising Star nominees Bailey Scott, Cameron Zurhaar, Nick Larkey and Tarryn Thomas, as well as Jy Simpkin and Luke Davies-Uniacke.
Walker, a second-round draft pick in 2017, was tracking well in his first season last year, and had nine disposals and a goal inside a quarter against Adelaide in his most-recent match 16 months ago.
The 20-year-old soccer convert's day ended early, when he landed awkwardly flying for a mark.
Walker hyper-extended his left knee, suffering low-grade PCL damage, a compression fracture of the tibia and a joint capsule tear.
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It was round 22, North didn't make the finals and the initial prognosis was he would be ready for the start of pre-season training. So, no big deal, right?
In hindsight, that was far too optimistic.
Walker progressed more slowly than expected on the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill but post-Christmas he started over-the-ground running and increased up to 4km a session.
"The specialist we saw was more focused on rehabbing the PCL," Walker told AFL.com.au this week.
"By the time the PCL had healed; we believed the bone and the capsule would have healed and be strong enough to train and do decent running loads. It wasn't the case in the end.
"The way it panned out was the PCL healed well … and it was actually the tibia bone, where the compression fracture was, that was the one holding it back.
"I pretty much got cleared to run, put it this way, too early, before my bone was ready to take the loading."
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Walker, for his part, felt soreness for "probably one or two sessions" before he told the Roos' medical staff, and he says now what eventuated was "no single person's fault".
A subsequent check-up provided the bad news: he had developed a serious stress reaction in his tibia and was back to square one, only weeks out from round one.
"I remember the first week I did it. I wouldn't say I hated footy … but I just got very jealous of the boys who had it and I just wished that was me so badly," Walker said.
"I probably got over that stuff two or three rounds in. It was like, 'What's the point of sitting here getting jealous and worrying about what other people are doing?'.
Walker's season wasn't over at that stage but he and North Melbourne learned from the first time around and were even more cautious.
They took a more objective approach, trusting the scans more than Walker's pain levels – although it was still a combination – and booking them in every six weeks or so.
A different specialist, Dr David Spurrier, also offered a different philosophy on running loads.
"We literally started in the gym, with very low-level stuff. I was standing on one leg, just moving some weights around," Walker said.
The forward-midfielder used this time to get stronger in the gym, and he's added about 3kg of muscle to what he concedes is still a slight frame, and watch a heap of game vision to develop his craft.
Walker even completed his level-two coaching accreditation with a handful of other Kangaroos, including practical experience with his local club Hampton Rovers' under-19 side.
He might even undertake the level-three course in the future, admitting he had caught the coaching bug.
Walker has also grown close with injured teammate Ed Vickers-Willis, who is on the road back from an ACL setback and has been a regular rehabilitation partner.
They went to Europe together in the off-season and just so happen to both be studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne.
But, most importantly, where is Walker at now?
"I haven't had any knee or tibia soreness for probably a month, which is the first time since I've done the knee that I haven't been sore, which is really good," he said.
"We're getting scans every six weeks and the last two we've had have been very positive.
"I wouldn't say I'm 100 per cent in the clear, because I haven't started playing games yet, but I feel really good with my body and my knee's feeling very strong and my leg's feeling great."
Walker does stationary skills with his teammates, then transitions back to the rehab group, where he is again reaching 4km per session.
It's "unlikely" he will resume full training straight after the Christmas break but he hopes to by late January or early February and plans to be playing in the Marsh Community Series.
"By the time I'm fully training, I'd expect to play a full game," Walker said.
"The rehab program we do is so structured and well set up to build you to that.
"By the time you're building to a full pre-season session, which is anywhere from 10-15km, with a lot of high-speed running, change of direction and physical contact, that's almost the equivalent of what you get in a game."
Walker is proud of his four senior games to date but points out his first was dual Syd Barker medallist Shaun Higgins' 200th, so there is plenty more to do.
And don't coddle him about that breakout quarter against Adelaide.
"People say, 'You were playing so well'. I had a good quarter – who cares? People have a good quarter every week. People have four good quarters," Walker said.
"People like Dustin Martin have four good quarters 20 of 23 weeks, so who cares that some young kid's played one good quarter? I haven't proven anything to myself or anybody else.
"But the biggest thing that drives me is to play with the boys. I feel like we have a great young core and a lot of success to look forward to."