EARLIER in 2024, Zac Williams was asked to complete an enviable task: name his top three Carlton players from when he grew up a Bluebagger.

In February, he was - for all intents and purposes - a defender. And yet he still managed to name three players largely associated with being Carlton forwards on his podium.

Brendan Fevola was third, former teammate Eddie Betts was at number one. The only player who had spent time down back was Andrew Walker, who was Williams’ runner-up.

As fate would have it, Williams is now readying himself for game 150 and has been revitalised with a move from defence to attack. That sounds a bit like the man who used to be known as ‘1AW’, if you ask us.

And while the high flyer was once a favourite for a young Williams, it’s Carlton’s No.6 who is now very much a favourite in the Walker household.

“I would’ve thought I was number one, come on Zaccy boy! No, it’s always nice to hear. It also starts to show your age a little bit,” Walker told Carlton Media this week.

“I’m 38 now and retired for seven years, but seeing these guys come through — if I was someone he looked up to, it fills your heart with joy. Zac’s doing that for my boys who are starting to come through the system now: he is certainly one of the favourite players for me, my boys, Leti and Kylie.

“Hopefully all things stack up and there might be a time where Zaccy gets to play with my boys. For the Carlton Football Club, obviously . . . but he’s more than welcome to play for Echuca after he retires.”

The relationship between Williams and Walker extends far beyond just mutual admiration and their affinity for the Navy Blue, however. In recent years, Walker has been one of a number of former Blues who the Club has reached out to, mentoring the current-day players of the football club.

Williams just so happened to be in Walker’s group, and the two have well and truly hit it off from there.

“I got a call a couple of years ago, ‘Vossy’ had developed a mentorship program with past players that had exited the Club and now do things in business. It was a really good opportunity for me to be back included with the football club, a really nice gesture.

“It was very unofficial, nice and casual, but it was great to go to breakfast with all the boys and hear their stories. I got the invite a while ago, and it’s still ongoing.

“We’re an ear and a shoulder to lean on, if the boys need a chat. Through that mentorship program, I was able to connect with Zac.”

Since then, Walker has had Williams come down to Echuca Football Club — where Walker is the reigning premiership coach. It’s also opened the door for plenty of conversations between the two of them, with Walker acting as a sounding board for Williams on all things football.

The 200-gamer shared some insight into what those conversations have been about in recent years.

“Unfortunately it’s been a bit around injury with Zaccy. You share those stories. When it’s your job and your body lets you down, it can be really frustrating — seeing what Zac has been through, I can certainly understand how hard it is.

“When you are going through injury as an AFL footballer, it is really good to talk about your injuries. For me unfortunately - and maybe fortunately for Zac - I’ve been through a lot of injuries as well, so it was nice to chat to him about staying positive and trying to get through, staying super confident and upbeat. He’s done such a great job.

“Also, being an Indigenous player myself and shedding some light on my experiences, with the way he is standing proud out there as an Indigenous footballer for the Carlton Football Club, it makes you feel really proud as well.”

Walker has been watching on with keen interest this year, able to head to eight games with his family live to watch the Blues in action. In recent weeks, it’s been hard not to be to drawn to Williams, who followed a similar trajectory to a portion of Walker’s time in football which revitalised his career.

It was back in 2010 when Walker looked to be at a bit of a crossroads. But prior to the 2011 season, Walker - who had been played a bit of everywhere in his early years - was swung up forward to immediate effect, winning the Blues’ goalkicking with 56 goals in 2011.

Why did it work for him — and why’s it working for Williams now?


“When you go from being a defender to a forward, you understand how forwards play. You’re dictated to a bit by the forwards, so when you get up there, the shackles feel released, you can get out there and just play. 

“I think that’s what’s going on with Zaccy. He’s added another different dimension for us up forward. We’ve got the tall timber but as soon as it hits the ground, you know Zaccy is going be thereabouts. 

“I’m loving watching him go forward — but I also love watching him off half-back.”

In case you couldn’t tell, Walker is clearly loving what’s happening at IKON Park led by Michael Voss.

“I absolutely love it. I’m really looking forward to seeing the boys go again.

“As a mad Carlton supporter now, it’s always nice to see us back where we should be. All my kids love going: it’s so nice to sit there, watch and not come off the field feeling sore and wounded all the time.”