I cannot see how Taylor Walker can return to the Adelaide Football Club in 2022.
Breaking his silence in an awkward, staged, and scripted video message, apologising for his racial slur towards North Adelaide’s Robbie Young, Walker may have done as much harm as good.
Taylor Walker apologised in a video alongside Robbie Young earlier this week.
It’s been 24 days since the incident at Prospect Oval, and instead of putting the story to bed, the video only identified further that Walker hasn’t addressed the questions that need answering.
Why did he make the racist comment? How did it happen after 14 years of extensive education, indicating he needs more? Does he truly understand the impact that past incidents have had on former teammates such as his longtime offsider Eddie Betts? And lastly, how does he plan to make himself better and contribute to the community?
These questions remain unanswered as Walker heads off for time away from the club.
No doubt he is struggling and would be taking it hard. As a former mentor, I feel for him. But that is no excuse for what happened.
While some online are treating Walker as the victim, he is anything but. Rather, he is the cause for the latest off-field storm engulfing the Crows.
If anyone else in their workplace had said what Walker did, they wouldn’t be treated so lightly – with a six-week suspension and $20,000 donation to charity. They’d be sacked, probably on the spot.
Adelaide’s chief executive Tim Silvers and senior coach Matthew Nicks have offered no guarantees that Walker will return to fulfil his recently signed one-year contract for season 2022. Silvers, doing the media rounds on Monday, stated: “[The] culture of our football club is first and foremost, and we need to get that right and then look at reintegrating Taylor back into the club when the time is right.”
Adelaide must first wrap their arms around and support their hurt players and staff. Only then will they have a clear view of what the future looks like.
The fans are angry and disappointed that their former pin-up boy could have messed up so badly.
No doubt the club’s image has taken a hit. Only those inside the walls at West Lakes will know the true monetary cost of this – no sponsor likes being partnered with culturally divisive headlines.
The club distanced itself from Walker’s video message, filmed without the usual sponsored backdrop or club attire.
The club’s list rebuild must take priority, with Tom Lynch recently informed he won’t be offered a contract in 2022 and Daniel Talia expected to follow suit.
Fresh from inking a new one-year extension worth approximately $500,000 after showing career-best form early in the 2021 season, Walker’s suspension now shines a bigger spotlight on the club’s desperate need to develop and expose young forwards Riley Thilthorpe, Darcy Fogarty and Elliott Himmelberg to regular AFL action.
And for a team that currently sits six points clear of North Melbourne in 17th place on the ladder, spending time and money on re-integrating Walker into the playing group appears a backwards step.
Walker will be 32 years old next April, and almost certainly in his last year. Should he choose to return to the Crows it would appear the only one benefiting would be “Tex”.
After fulfilling a childhood dream of playing for his beloved Crows, as difficult and painful a decision it would be, for the sake of the current players at the Adelaide Football Club, the game, the Indigenous community, wider society, and perhaps even Walker himself, the best way forward is to retire.
And should he choose, the opportunity exists to be the new spokesperson, driving change in the racial and religious vilification space going forward.
Warren Tredrea is a Port Adelaide premiership captain, Channel Nine Adelaide sport presenter and Australian football hall of fame member.
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