To commemorate the 140th anniversary of Australian Football in New South Wales in 2020, 140 coaches, players, umpires, administrators and media personalities will be inducted into the inaugural New South Wales Australian Football Hall of Fame. Rod Gillett profiles the nomination of Wayne Walker.
At the opening bounce in the NSW v VFA match at Lavington in 1987, Wayne Walker bored in to get the tap from ruckman Barry Denton bundling his opponent out of the way to boot the Sky Blues into attack.
Defender Dennis Sandral immediately ran to “Wacky”, as he universally known, to say “You’ll do us!”. Sandral, the tough-as-teak Ovens & Murray Hall of Famer, had challenged Walker at training about his key role in the mid-field.
“Wacky” responded the best way known by playing a pivotal role in the historic victory over the Victorian Football Association and being named second best player. Sandral from the Corowa club was also in the best players along with his O & M colleagues Dick Hamilton and Ralph Aalbers.
Walker had driven his car from Broken Hill to represent his State. There were only two flights out of Broken Hill to Sydney during this period. Like everything else in Broken Hill such as the newspapers, the time, and the beer, the flights came from Adelaide.
This commitment really endeared “Wacky” to his teammates as did his cheery nature.
It proved to be NSW’s only ever win over the VFA. The first match between these two sides had been played in Sydney in 1881 which was the first-ever interstate (colony) football match of any code involving NSW, a year before rugby. The VFA morphed into the VFL in 1995.
“Wacky” told me that “the spirit and competitiveness of the (NSW) players was unbelievable. They were all so committed (to win). “Leechie” (coach Greg Leach) and “Huey” (Greg Harris) knew how to bring the boys together for rep games. It was a very satisfying win”.
Walker carved out a highly distinguished career in local football in Broken Hill from his debut in 1975 until his retirement in 1996 marked by competition best and fairest medals, premierships and representative honours.
He started his senior career at Centrals in 1975. He played 149 games including premierships in 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984.
“Wacky” was a core member of the Centrals mid-field contingent led by skipper Dean “Stixie” Files, ex Port Adelaide centreman John Eade, and the dynamic Visko Sulicich.
Premiership team-mate and former AFL Broken Hill chairman Peter Nash recalls “Wacky” as a player, “Wacky mostly played as a ruck-rover. Got the ball out of packs. He was as tough-as-nails, hard but fair. Very skillful on both sides of the body. He was the Mark Ricciuto of Broken Hill football”.
He stunned the local football world when he moved to Norths in 1985 as playing coach.
Geographically, Broken Hill is divided by the line-of-load into two discernible districts, Town and the South. But as Keith Newton shows in his chapter on footy in Broken Hill in Footy Town (2013) football is tribal. The existence of the football clubs since the turn of the 20th century divides the city into four communities.
“Wacky” took Norths to a premiership in 1986; he would play 202 games and participate in further premierships in 1988, 1992 and 1994. He retired in 1996.
He won the Middleton Medal as the best player in the Broken Hill FL competition in 1978 and 1983 at Centrals then again in 1991 and 1995 at Norths which gave him four awards over three different decades. He also won two club best and fairest awards at both Centrals and at Norths.
Wayne played six games for NSW. He was a regular representative in Broken Hill teams in the South Australian country championships. He also represented SA Country team on four occasions.
From 1996 – 2002 he was the AFL Development Officer in the Far West region and for 5 years coached the Primary State Schools Association team at the intra-state carnival.
He is best-known these days as the father of “Tex”, Adelaide key forward Taylor Walker.
NSWAFL: President Keith Miller, AM MBE and legendary Australian Cricketer, who also represented NSW in Australian Football was present at the match.