• Jayden J Bartlett

Tahlia Walker - a Double Blue Dream Start

Switching to a new sport is challenging – especially when the game is as chaotic as football. Therefore, many would be forgiven for taking time to learn and grow within Australia’s game.

But every once in a while there’s a sporting convert who hits the ground running; and in this case, that sporting convert is young Double Blue, Tahlia Walker.

Before playing football, Tahlia’s sporting life was split between 2 sports – yet she managed to still perform highly well within both.

So, I used to be quite a high-level basketball and netball player, and I was torn on which one I wanted to focus on,” Tahlia said when asked why she decided to take up football. “I then had a friend who happened to play footy for Barker Roos, and she put the idea into my head of completely switching things up and giving footy a go instead.”

“So, I just thought I’d give it a go.”

After deciding to make the switch to footy, Tahlia joined the Mount Barker Roos Football Club for the 2020 season.

“… I remember going to my first ever footy training, and I was so nervous because all of the girls had such great skills and I had never played footy before,” she said when questioned about her first year of footy. “It took a few training sessions for me to get the hang of it all, but I figured it all out pretty quickly.”

“I also remember my first ever game, and I ended up kicking 3 goals, and in another game, I kicked 7. That was when I realised that I have the potential to go further if I worked hard enough.”

“The coaching was also amazing, he helped me a lot to improve my skills which led to me winning the Best and Fairest, which was an absolute shock to me at the moment that my name was read out.”

As far as promising signs go, winning the 2020 Barker Roo’s Under-17s Best and Fairest in your debut season is certainly up there – and it was just the start of Tahlia’s exciting footy journey as the experiences continued to build.

Last year provided Tahlia with her first experience of playing finals footy, and “although we didn’t get the result we wanted, it was amazing to experience playing in a Grand Final”.

Then came 2021 during which she not only managed to impress at footy but also within netball as well.

Making her second year of footy her breakout season, Tahlia joined the Hahndorf Football Club where she continued her impressive performances – topped off by claiming the 2021 Hahndorf Under-17s Best and Fairest.

“When I made the move to Hahndorf, I only knew a couple of the girls, so I was very nervous.”

“But I found that all the girls were very welcoming, and the club had a great team atmosphere, and I’ve loved playing there and will continue to play there.”

Switching back to a round ball, Tahlia was also crowned as the 2021 Onkaparinga Netball Club Under-17s Best and Fairest as well as the Mid Hills Association Under-17s Best and Fairest.

Winning Best and Fairest awards in football and netball within the same year is exceptional. However, Tahlia’s breakout 2021 performance doesn’t stop there.

'The Bright Double Blue' - image kindly supplied by Tahlia.

As an exciting Hill’s prospect who loves getting amongst the contest and winning the hardball – it was only a matter of time before her zone club recognised her potential.

And, midway through 2021, the day came when the Double Blues picked Tahlia to play in their SANFLW Junior Girl’s Development side.

“It felt so unreal when I found out that I had made it,” she said when asked how it felt to be a part of a SANFLW side so early into her football. “I didn’t put a whole lot of pressure on myself to make the team because it was only my second season of footy.”

“So, when I did make it, I was in complete shock. But I loved every minute of being a part of the squad.”

This all came while she was still busy with her netball commitments, meaning that it “was a very hard year that is for sure”.

“Every day after school I’d either have netball or footy training and games took up my entire weekends so I had near to no free time.”

“For me, it was all about mindset, I knew that I wanted to achieve great things in either sport. Now I have quit netball so that I can really focus on my footy and hopefully go pretty far with it.”

Leaving netball behind in the same year that she had won a club and league Best and Fairest in is a major call – but it shows the high level of dedication that the young Blue has for her footy.

“It was very difficult,” she replied when asked if leaving netball was a tough choice. “I had played netball ever since under-11s so it’s going to feel a bit strange not playing it anymore, but I love footy so that made it a bit easier.” This major call was the right move since her impressive performances for Sturt’s Junior Girls has led her to be invited to join Sturt’s Senior SANFLW Squad for 2022.

“One of my favourite moments would be when I received an email saying that I was invited to be in the Sturt senior squad,” she said when reflecting on this moment. “My mum had a good cry.”

And the Hills’ prospect has already settled into her new-look sporting life at Unley.

“We started preseason a while ago, so I’ve had plenty of time to get to know all the girls, they’re all wonderful and give me so many helpful tips which are great.”

Things have only continued to get better for Tahlia, as she was recently selected into the 2022 South Australian Under-18s State Academy.

Having become a 2-time Best and Fairest, a SANFLW player and a State Under-18s Academy member, all within 24 months of first strapping on the footy boots – Tahlia is highly exciting, to say the least.

Yet as well as her dedication and passion that has seen her chase her footy dreams, we must also address her family for supporting her decision to switch to football despite already having a promising path in netball.

“My family for being supportive of the decisions I made to take a football pathway rather than netball,” she said when asked if there was anyone she’d like to thank for impacting her footy.

So, what is the next chapter in this Double Blue prospect's journey?

I think I’m most looking forward to getting the chance to debut for Sturt,” she said when questioned about 2022. “I aim to get a game in the top side if I can, so I’m looking forward to the season starting.”

“And just getting to play a game with these girls, I’m super excited for.”

As well as being selected in the final playing team for the state academy. My goal beyond next year is to get drafted to the Women’s AFL.”

Since making the gutsy call to leave her promising netball journey behind, Tahlia has rapidly developed into an exciting, silky ruck rover who isn’t afraid to go in and get the hardball.

Having the ability to go also forwards, where she also has the potential to do damage, the Double Blues have found themselves an exciting prospect – something they have been accustomed to doing in recent years.

As she will no doubt continue to flourish in a SANFLW program, the Double Blues will have to use the exciting prospect while they have her – because when Tahlia Walker hits draft age, we have a hunch that they may lose her.

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Article #213

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None of these images is owned by MWM; the images have been supplied by the player and were personally taken.

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