SANDRINGHAM Dragons’ Daisy Walker was a basketball for most of her life. She played for through her schooling journey and reached state level. At the same time, her brother Will was forging a career in Australian rules football. He was over at the Dragons and ended up earning a spot on North Melbourne’s AFL list after being drafted pick 23 in the 2017 National Draft. Fast forward three years and Daisy is now in a similar boat, hoping to hear her name called out at the AFL Women’s Draft next week.
“He (Will) just looked like he was having so much fun while he was playing,” Walker said. “And I was kind of over just basketball and all the politics and all that, and footy just seemed like a fresh start, so I thought I’d give it a go. “I just sort of fell in love with the sport. “I’ve always loved team sports. “Footy was just an even bigger team. “That was just the bonus for me. “It was just something different, something new. “Something that just incorporated everything I love about sports, being able to run, being able to play with my mates. “New skills, I guess. The things I’ve never tried before.”
Walker said plenty of skills from her basketball days came in handy on the footy field such as her clean hands and endurance, which helped her run out entire games of football. She said the work she had put in during her basketball days to build that endurance was a “little on per cent” that helped her wear down opponents on the field. Playing at a club such as Sandringham Dragons was also a huge factor in her remaining in the sport.
“Honestly, it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s such an honour,” Walker said. “Just being able to go out there and just play decent footy like a high standard footy with your mates, it’s just something that most people can only dream of. “We just work so well as a team, especially from the first year, to this is being my third and final year. “Just how close we all became, it’s just made it so much more enjoyable.”
Walker said her athletic ability – mainly endurance and agility – was a key strength in her game, and said her fundamentals such as her ability to hit targets and technical ability had come on in recent years. However she would not stop improving and is keen to build all areas of her game doing forward.
From when she was young, Walker wanted to be the best sportsperson she could be, and was willing to “put in the hard yards”.
“Wherever it takes me, just something I’ve always wanted,” Walker said. “I’ve always wanted to be a professional athlete. “Just something I’ve decided, and one of my whole childhood and even as I grow up it’s still something I want so bad.”
Walker said she also had a couple of past Dragons as her inspirations throughout her journey, with no surprise as to who the first one was.
“I definitely say there’s two people,” she said. “The number one would be my brother. “I just love watching him play. “The way he plays it’s just unreal to me. “It’s something I want to be like. “He’s always out training, putting in the one percenters in his game. “Even in his rehab, he’s always just doing something to improve his game. “Getting back out there. “It’s just something I admire.”
“But also, the second one would probably be Jemma Owen, who was there in my first year at the Dragons, my first year of footy as well,” Walker said. “She was the team captain, she was the person who got me into footy. “She’s the reason I probably still play because I remember rocking up the first training session of the Dragons, not knowing anyone, barely knowing how to play footy, but just barely got in through my athletic ability. “She was just there welcoming, willing to just make you feel so welcome and want to be a part of team. “And I remember my first game as well. “I was in the backline and she came to the backline with me to help me out, and she was just very supporting. “That’s why I continue because I felt so welcome in the team.”
Walker has plenty of fond memories and anecdotes like that one to look back on her career thus far, and has aspirations of taking a specky in front of a “massive” crowd in an AFL Women’s game, something she did in her junior days, though concedes “it wasn’t really a specky, but it felt like one”.
Being late to football, Walker knows that there is still plenty to work on and takes solace from the fact that if next week does not go her way, there are plenty of opportunities to come in the future with mature-agers getting drafted each year.
“Yeah it does help a lot,” Walker said. “It’s just a bit of a relief, because I know watching the boys transition, it’s a lot harder to get picked up late in your later years, but for the girls that’s still new so there’s an opportunity to work on my skills. “Even if I don’t get picked up this year, just maybe going to the VFLW and just work on my skills, work on my game play, hopefully get a bit stronger and potentially get picked up later on.”
Over the break, Walker has worked closely with Dragons’ NAB League Girls High Performance Manager, Sonia De Rose once the season got postponed in March, with the talented teenager receiving a running program and some sessions with Walker twice a week.
“I got a few of the girls on board and there’s a group of us now, they’re still doing it since March,” Walker said. “We do bit of strength work on a Tuesday and Thursday, and then we have running on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then just the weekends sort of like a recovery. “But I’d always go for just a light jog or just get some extra kilometres.
“I’ve also been going down with some of my other Sandy girls Bella Eddey, Alice Burke some younger girls like Lucy Mitchell and Jemma Owen who’s older. Just doing some kicking, I guess getting our ball work up. “Just it’s also a way to catch up with them, and see how they’re going with all of it as well, because you’ve been quite stressful, especially during this time.”
As someone who lives and breathes footy, Walker was “over the moon” when she received an AFL Women’s Draft Combine invitation.
“I couldn’t believe that someone have interest in me,” Walker said. “I thought I was just sort of in the background. “But it’s just shows that people are watching, they can see what you’re doing and they noticed you. “Even when you don’t think no one’s watching, that’s when it really counts.”
As for what it would mean to hear her name called out next week and follow her brother into the elite level, Walker was resolute.
“It would be like a goal achieved but then again, not because it wouldn’t be achieved because I got in,” Walker said. “I wouldn’t just give up. “It’s something that I’ve worked on my entire life. “Even through my basketball, I wanted to be special basketballer. “But then that dream sort of faded away. “But this is just something that’s always been in my head. “Footy’s just, it’s just a massive goal in my life. And I just mean that my hard work paid off.”