HE SITS atop of the Coleman Medal leaderboard, his form reversal has been one of the storylines of 2021 and he remains Adelaide's most potent forward. And Crows veteran Taylor Walker, out of contract this season, says he wants to play on next season.
Walker's stunning form this season – he has kicked 27 goals from the first seven games to lead the competition – has been central to the Crows' promising start to the year, which has garnered three wins after last year's wooden spoon.
The year loomed as a potential farewell for Walker after his battles with form in 2020, when he managed just 15 goals from 14 games for the Crows heading into the final season of his long-term contract.
But 'Tex', who overtook Tony Modra as Adelaide's all-time leading goalkicker last season, now appears certain to play on into a 14th AFL campaign.
"Physically and mentally I'm in a great space so I'd love to play on next year providing that continues in the second half of the year and that's a discussion that we'll obviously have when it needs to be," Walker told AFL.com.au ahead of this week's Showdown clash with Port Adelaide on Saturday night.
The Crows haven't yet begun talks on an extension for the former skipper, with Walker saying there was no secret to his brilliant start to the season, which included hauls of five, six and six goals in the first three rounds.
"We're playing a lot better football and are a lot more predictable. Some rule changes have helped forwards in the game but my body's healthy, I'm physically fit, I'm mentally in a great space so I think all of those things play a role but I haven't done anything drastically different. People keep asking but it's just all of those things that have fallen into line and allowed me to play good footy," he said.
Even though Walker shies away from highlighting his exploits, his teammates say he is reaping the rewards of a hard summer.
"He's been phenomenal. Early on it was like 'The delivery has been great and we've been putting it on a platter for him' but then it got a point where he was just on fire and doing everything," Crows defender Tom Doedee said.
"It has come in different ways. It's not just lead up, take a mark from 50 and bomb it through. He's snapping them, he's taking it out of the ruck, he's kicking set shots and taking screamers. He had an incredible pre-season. He worked so hard over the break to make sure he was fit and ready to go.
"I've had the best seat in the house just watching it happen. He's a very humble man in the media – he doesn't mind letting us know about it – but he's been great for our young boys at well and has put the team on his back at times."
Just as Walker's form is the toast of West Lakes this season, last year the forward was the focus of severe scrutiny as the Crows tumbled to their first ever last-placed finish. But Walker said there were benefits to come from the back-end of the season, including late wins over Greater Western Sydney and Carlton, that had energised the club in coach Matthew Nicks' second year in charge.
"The back end of last year certainly set us up for a great off-season. I think it's been the best thing for our footy club that all of our kids couldn't go home and we hung around and trained together and we got better as a group and then we came back in the pre-season and added to that. Now we've come out and we're starting to see the rewards of what we've done in the off-season and pre-season," he said.
"When you're talking win-loss it was challenging [last year], but it was quite rewarding inside the four walls. You wouldn't have known that we were struggling that much because our young kids were just coming to work and wanting to learn and for me, as an experienced player, that was infectious and it drove me to get better as well.
"It was a challenging year in terms of win-loss but as a football club we grew and we got better and now we're starting to see some rewards of what these young kids did last year."
BRINGING TEXY BACK The numbers behind hot Crow
Walker will this week play in his 19th Showdown against the Power, with the club hoping to bounce back after its poor loss to the Giants last week at Adelaide Oval.
"Apart from the weekend we've been playing some really good footy and we probably should have won against Fremantle and Hawthorn. Those two games fall our way and it's a different story and we're a little bit higher on the ladder but on the weekend it was quite disappointing and we got beaten quite convincingly and all credit to GWS," he said.
"They're an outstanding outfit and they've got some hardened midfielders and across the board they just beat us up."