It was the round one result nobody saw coming.
The reigning grand finalist Geelong Cats found themselves traveling to the Adelaide Oval to take of an Adelaide Crows side fresh off their first ever wooden spoon and two pre season thrashings at the hands of Port Adelaide.
The narrative was set, this was going to be ugly.
Lining up for the Adelaide side, a 30 year old Taylor Walker would again take his place at centre half forward, with the competitions most maligned player over the past three years supposedly on his last knees and set to retire at year’s end.
Nothing about this situation instilled any confidence in Crows supporters, with some even questioning why Walker was in the side to begin with.
So as the ball bounced at 4:05pm on Saturday afternoon, the football world would enter a state of complete shock for the following two hours as the young and hungry Adelaide side took it up to the star studded Cats and ultimately prevailed in what was arguably the club’s biggest triumph since 1998.
Whether it was the incredible debut of mercurial small forward James Rowe or the remarkable shutdown of Tom Hawkins by three gamer Jordon Butts, it was a day littered with fantastic storylines for the rebuilding Adelaide Football Club.
However, one would stand out from the rest and bring a tear to Crows fans everywhere.
Reminiscent of his first game as captain some five years ago in round one against North Melbourne, Walker would wind back the clock and produce a performance for the ages kicking five crucial goals and setting up his teammates with 12 score involvements.
It was the type of performance that reminded the world just how talented of a footballer he is, with his striking of the football and work rate across the ground at an almost career high level.
Now leading the Coleman medal after one round the question must now be asked, was this just a one off or is the man affectionally known as Tex set for a career renaissance?
It is safe to say the last three seasons have been rough for Walker.
Following Adelaide’s run to the Grand Final in 2017, he has not managed to break the 50-goal season barrier with a return of 15 in 14 matches last year painting the picture of an ageing forward low on confidence.
Coming into the 2021 season it was almost a foregone conclusion that the trend would continue and with this being the final year of his contract, Walker would call time on his career as Adelaide’s all time leading goal scorer.
However, the man himself had another script in mind.
Following the disaster which was Adelaide’s 2020 season, Walker went to work as he along with a host of teammates young and old put together a host of off season sessions to make sure the group was in top nick for their report date in early January.
Focusing on his fitness and getting around the ground, keen observers quickly saw a change in the veteran’s body and general energy on the track.
Now sporting the AFL’s youngest list, this latest pre season also saw Walker’s mindset shift as he became a mentor to his peers and a real role model amongst the clubs exciting and youthful forward line.
This was something lauded by coach Matthew Nicks at his post game press conference as he commented on the legacy Walker has on the footy club.
“The legacy Tex has had on this footy club is going to be huge,” Nicks said.
“What he is doing now is making these players better around him and part of that is playing and training at a high level like he did throughout the off season,
“He deserves everything he got today, and that’s on the back of hard work, working with our younger guys to improve, it is making him a better footballer it is incredible how prioritising others can help.”
This idea of prioritising others has been a mantra of the Adelaide Football Club ever since Matthew Nicks walked in, and it’s clear that veterans such as Walker are reaping the benefits of this mindset change.
Following his excellent pre season, Walker was able to continue his excellent form on the track as the Crows began a three week block of trial matches.
Starting with the club’s internal trial match, the veteran consistently showed himself to be the most dangerous forward in Crows colours as he booted three goals followed by outings of two and another three against premiership fancies Port Adelaide in consecutive weeks.
There was a noticeable change in the way he was moving, with the introduction of the new man on the mark paying dividends as he was able to find better opportunities on the lead in a more open attacking half.
So, although to many it may have seemed like a complete anomaly, Saturday’s performance against the Cats was nothing short of the continuation of a trend.
The most important question is whether he can continue this excellent form and officially rejuvenate his career.