BEN Walsh is a prime example of seizing an opportunity.
When Koroit lost dual Maskell Medal winner Simon O’Keefe, former captain Isaac Templeton and premiership player Adam O’Keefe from its revered midfield in the off-season, Saints supporters were left pondering who would fill the vacancies.
While Walsh was disappointed to lose his teammates — players he regarded as significantly better than him — their departures were good news for him.
“I had been a fringe player forever because it was such a hard midfield to get into,” Walsh said.
He set himself for a big pre-season and lifted his fitness.
Seven games into the season, Walsh hasn’t missed a senior game. While that number might be insignificant to some, it’s important for Walsh, who managed to play 37 games in four previous seasons with the Saints spread over eight years.
But in 2012 it’s a different story.
“It’s great to get an opportunity,” the Emmanuel College physical education teacher said.
“It’s been a long time coming.”
Walsh has been named in the Saints’ best players four times in the first six games, playing in the midfield.
In previous years Walsh would have been given a negative role in the centre but this year coach Chris McLaren has asked the 24-year-old for more than his defensive efforts.
“I’m not the kind of player like Benny Goodall who is going to get 40 touches and kick two or three goals a game.
“I’m a bit more defensive. In the past you have felt you let the other guys get the footy but now you feel like you have to go in and get the footy. Chris has been pretty big on us little fellas to get in there and win the footy and take the pressure off guys like Benny Goodall, Joey (McLaren) and Ben (Dobson).
“I play a role. It’s the first time I feel like I’m contributing.”
Fourth-placed Saints host ladder-leader Camperdown at Victoria Park. Star midfielder Ben Goodall is out with a back injury but as Walsh pointed out yesterday, Camperdown will be without its equivalent player Luke Mahony.
“They cancel each other out,” he said.