GETTING called ‘Sticks’ at Ikon Park generally means you have a reputation to live by. Luckily for Henry Walsh, he also had ‘Praying Mantis’ to answer to.
In his own words, “he doesn’t mind it”.
Of course, the 201-centimetre, 17-year-old brother of Rising Star Sam - yes, you read that correctly - is well known by the rest of the playing group already.
While he is normally visiting Royal Parade as Sam Walsh’s brother, he was officially a peer for the week as he joined in for training as part of the AFL Academy.
Sam got the opportunity two years ago with Geelong, and Henry could have also gone down the highway (and much closer to home). When he had the option to choose, the answer was swift.
“I prefer Carlton, for obvious reasons! I was lucky enough to be here at Carlton and stay with Sam and Will Setterfield for the week,” Walsh said.
“I think Sam will be happy for me to go home for a couple of nights. He’s probably sick of me already — I probably asked too many questions and was too annoying at home.”
For those who were watching on and previously unaware, there wouldn’t be any great indication of Sam and Henry being siblings. To start with, there’s the obvious height difference.
Then, there’s the difference in personality.
According to Henry, brother Sam is “a huge teacher’s pet — he sucks up to all of them”.
As for himself?
“Someone has got to be the class clown, I reckon,” he said.
It's a big week at Ikon Park, with potential father-son selections as well as youngsters from the AFL Academy training with us.— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) December 9, 2019
Pictured below are Henry Walsh, Tom Gleeson (🐻), Mackenzie Hogg, Tom Silvagni and Charlie McKay. Oh, and some Diesel bloke. #BoundByBlue pic.twitter.com/bLpIqg9rJE
“You bring it before and after training but when training is on, it’s nice and serious and the games are serious. I do love a bit of fun, though.
“Sam likes the running side of things while I do like the gym side of it. It hasn’t paid off just yet, but it’ll pay off soon — that’s what I keep telling myself.
“Actually, that’s what I keep telling everyone.
“There’s a huge amount of difference. At the end of the day, someone’s got to tap it down to a little bloke like him!”
It was a long time coming for the siblings: dating back to their time when they lived in Darwin, Walsh said the chance to train alongside his brother once again was five years in the making.
That’s not to say they had a great deal of involvement with one another, however.
“I thought I’d be seeing him at every drill but I barely saw him throughout the day. I was happy with that,” he said.
“The last time we played together was in under-14s for Nightcliff. I was bottom, bottom-age and he was top-age. He was always that serious person: the teacher’s pet, again.
“I was just the bloke who found the ball and booted it anywhere. They were good times — playing with Sam was always fun.
“It’d be an unreal chance to get to play anywhere in the AFL, but it would be even better to play with Sam.”
While his relation to the NAB AFL Rising Star winner brings with it a healthy dose of sledging (“people give it to you on the footy field a bit”), there was nothing of the sort at Ikon Park this week.
Instead, the younger Walsh was a sponge, soaking up everything he could alongside Nikolas Cox from the AFL Academy as well as the members of the father-son academy.
It was no surprise who Walsh turned to for the most advice, being a budding young ruckman.
“The best bit of the week was doing about 30 minutes of ruck craft with ‘Kreuz’,” he said.
“It was a bit surreal to start off. But then I started following him around like a shadow — like a big, big shadow.
“"He’d love me giving him a bit of a rap, I reckon. It was bloody terrific.
“Luke [Power] has done it terrifically this year.”
With the new faces on hand, there was a definite family feel at Ikon Park this week: the Walsh siblings joined the Silvagnis (Jack, Ben and Tom), the Curnows (Ed and Charlie), the Hoskings (Sarah and Jess) and the McKays (Abbie and Charlie). Madison Prespakis’ sister Georgie was also part of AFLW training.
Making the occasion even more special around family, Walsh said his father - a born and bred Bluebagger - would’ve loved having two sons running around at the traditional home.
“I haven’t spoken to Dad much this week: he just said to embrace the opportunity and that I’ll love it,” he said.
“He’ll probably take one of my singlets and start wearing that around, I reckon. Once we get home, it’ll probably be a four-hour chat just talking about Carlton.”
You’d imagine the chats about all the Navy Blue happenings will be a constant recurrence for the Walsh family, but it’s not all that will keep Henry busy.
Working with Don Mathieson in Drysdale, Walsh proved that his story-telling capabilities come just as naturally as his ruck work.
As he put it, it may not necessarily assist his footy — except for the fact that “it keeps me on my toes”.
“I have run into a few different situations out on the farm there: there was the first prolapse I’ve dealt with. Normally a prolapse happens when a cow has a calf and the uterus slips out as well: I’m pretty sure that’s what it is, anyway,” he said.
“This cow had its calf seven months earlier and it was really strange: none of the workers and none of the vets could work out why. It came out earlier in the day before one of the people I work with put it back in. When we were ready to knock off, it happened to come out again.
“It was a few extra hours of overtime but we all love overtime. You gotta love the country.
“I’m not sure it exactly helps with my footy, I guess it helps with my problem solving on the ground.
“Hopefully no-one has a prolapse out on the ground.”