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The Talent JourneyTuesday, November 30, 2021 - 3:27 PM - by Mark Readings

They say it takes a village to raise a child. The same can be said about developing AFL talent.

One of the most critical roles from a local Draft perspective falls at the feet of WAFC Well Being Officer Lee Walker.

For the past three years Walker has been tasked with providing tools for teenagers to make the transition into the AFL system.

"There’s nothing we won’t do to support players as they navigate their way towards an AFL career," he said.

"For most it’s a case of ensuring the balance between footy, family and school time is right ."

Walker is at pains to point out the process is very much a team effort between WAFL clubs and the State Academy.

"In the past footy clubs supported players on the field, but now there’s an understanding that having an interest outside the game brings out the best in these young men," he added.

"Whether it’s school, university , going to work or simply hitting the water for a surf, having an outlet is a must."

The ex-Docker and former Magpie can’t speak highly enough of the preparation by the current crop of AFL Draftees from WA.

There are many great stories, including defender Judd McVee, who was taken in the Rookie Draft by Melbourne.

"Here’s a kid who left Geraldton and his family to follow his passion and now finds himself on an AFL list after a terrific season in the colts with East Fremantle."

But Walker acknowledges many others face daunting challenges.

"It may be a kid whose come from a broken family or someone whose scholastic levels fall well below the required level, we have to wrap our arms around them, and that’s what we’re there for."

The role of parents and coaches remains paramount for teenagers with designs on a professional football career.

"Sleep, nutrition, time management and use of social media are all key indicators to tell us whether a player is tracking in the right direction," said Walker. 

With 16 WA players taken in the NAB AFL Draft, the raw numbers are undeniable. 

The talent pathway, which includes the WAFL Club Development Squads/ Regional Development Squads & Academy, WAFL Colts program, WA State Academy and National Championships, has proven its value.

Led by Adam Jones and Marc Webb the WAFC Talent team is rightfully proud of the program.

For Walker, helping someone realise their footy dream and join an AFL club brings enormous satisfaction.

Watching that same young man develop into a good citizen means his job is done.