Orara?s rookie makes mark
By MITCHELL DALE
WHEN the 2005 Group 2 squad was announced 20 minutes after the North v South trial at Macksville earlier this month, Orara Valley utility Ryan Walker was already in the car heading home.
Walker couldn't see the point in hanging around to hear who had been selected.
He didn't think he was any chance of making the side.
After he was mysteriously snubbed by Group 2 Under-18s selectors last year, you can't really blame Walker for not liking his chances of making the senior side one year later.
However, this year's Group 2 Open selectors obviously saw something their under-18s counterparts missed in 2004, deciding the versatile back was worthy of his senior representative debut.
In Saturday's annual Group 2 v Group 3 clash, Walker had a field day to not only justify his selection in the Group side, but also make it impossible for North Coast selectors to leave him out of the Divisional squad.
The 18-year-old was one of 13 Group 2 players named in the North Coast side, taking his place on the wing despite finding a home at fullback with Orara.
For Walker, the transition from first grade rookie to accomplished representative player has been a quick one.
In fact, the former St Gregory's College Campbelltown student readily admits he harboured no representative aspirations this year.
"No, never. I mainly thought about getting into the Orara Valley first grade side," Walker says.
"There were heaps of good players coming to the club, so I just wanted to cement my spot anywhere in the starting side.
"I didn't expect to get looked at this year, even after the Group trial I left straight away and didn't think anything about it.
"Then Tristan (Hamilton-Giggins) told me I made it later on that night.
"I only played the trial for experience, I wasn't thinking any further ahead."
But rather than accept praise for his own performances, Walker says his meteoric rise has been made possible by his Axemen teammates.
"All the first grade players are older than me and they have helped me out a lot," he says.
"I wouldn't have made these rep sides if there were not as many good players around me at the club."
Walker says it hasn't just been the recognised brains trust of Orara Valley ? Brad Hart, Brett Davis and Matt Donovan ? who have offered assistance.
"Ben and Adam (McCarthy) helped me heaps last year," he says.
"Everything I did, they talked me through it and guided me."
Walker was almost lost to the Axemen over the off-season when his father and brother moved north for work.
Luckily for Orara, instead of moving north he bunked down at the home of club legend 'Uncle' Brett Davis.
"I was living with my brother and father last year and was going to move with them, but Uncle Brett asked what I wanted to do," Walker says.
"I wanted to stay at Orara, so he offered me a bed.
"It's good, we're always talking about footy and he gives me a lot of tips."
Ryan Walker seems to now have everything on his side in 2005.
Pace, agility and a football brain like Davis' to pick whenever he wants.
He even has the selectors on his side this year.