Crows captain Taylor Walker celebrates after kicking one of his four goals against Richmond on Thursday. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
Crows captain Taylor Walker celebrates after kicking one of his four goals against Richmond on Thursday. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Walker looks to build on fitness, momentum

ADELAIDE captain Taylor Walker is using a nine-day break to top up his fitness after an injury-interrupted preseason as the Crows look to build on the momentum gained from their morale-boosting Richmond victory against struggling St Kilda this weekend.

Walker made an strong statement in his return from a plantar fascia strain in the grand final re-match against the Tigers last Thursday - his first game since last year's disappointing premiership decider - kicking 4.0 from 11 disposals.

The star forward, who avoided surgery but missed a big part of the pre-season while getting treatment on the left foot, acknowledged he still had some way to go to reaching full fitness after pulling up sore and sluggish.

David McKay (concussion) and Matt Crouch (hamstring) stand on the sidelines after the win on Thursday. Picture: SARAH REED
David McKay (concussion) and Matt Crouch (hamstring) stand on the sidelines after the win on Thursday. Picture: SARAH REED

"I didn't feel real good," Walker said this week in response to praise for his eye-catching performance in Thursday's victory.

"At the end of the game I was a bit sluggish. But I've got a lot of confidence in our guys at PPT (physical performance). They did a good program. You only get out of it what you do in the pool or on the bike as much as you want.

"I had a fair crack over the pre-season. It was a bit different for me, but it gave me full confidence going in.

"We've got a nine-day break now so I get a little bit more top up."

Walker indicated the Crows would most likely be without the services of Matt Crouch for three or four weeks after injuring a hamstring against the Tigers.

But he expected David Mackay to bounce back from concussion to take on the Saints at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night and rated Tom Lynch a good chance to return to the side after a side strain and then illness.

He tipped Riley Knight would be available to return from an ankle injury, but he would most likely come through the SANFL side.

Hugh Greenwood snaps a goal over Richmond’s Jayden Short on Thursday. Picture SARAH REED.
Hugh Greenwood snaps a goal over Richmond’s Jayden Short on Thursday. Picture SARAH REED.

Rory Sloane (foot) and Daniel Talia (knee) are expected to play after returning to the field against Richmond.

Walker was full of praise for his side after a difficult week where there was plenty of external focus on the grand final capitulation as well as the Crows' Gold Coast preseason mind training camp.

The skipper took it upon himself to try and shelter his teammates from the hysteria, imploring them to stick together in a WhatsApp message that was leaked to the media.

Cam Ellis-Yolmen of the Crows tackles Josh Caddy of the Tigers at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz
Cam Ellis-Yolmen of the Crows tackles Josh Caddy of the Tigers at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night. Picture: AAP Image/David Mariuz

"It was two days out from the game so I didn't want to put us on the wrong path," Walker said of the message.

"I was confident we would be able to come back together. We've been through stuff like this before. It was a great win for the football club, nearly 50,000 people there, it was very loud and the new light show was pretty cool."

He singled out the efforts of Hugh Greenwood and Cam Ellis-Yolmen who are also building to full fitness after an Achilles injury and a knee reconstruction respectively.

"Both those boys stood up for us in the second half and played their role really well," Walker said.

"I think they can get better and better and strengthen our midfield and then go forward and do what they have to.

"(Greenwood)'s so clean in tight and he's tough as well. I know Josh Kennedy from Sydney is a super, super player but he reminds me a little bit of what he does in close, the way he moves. And he can go forward and kick a goal. He reads the play really well."

Josh Jenkins celebrates one of his five goals against Richmond. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
Josh Jenkins celebrates one of his five goals against Richmond. Picture: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

The skipper also commended the efforts of maligned forward Josh Jenkins, who kicked five goals on All-Australian Alex Rance in what commentator Wayne Carey hailed as the best game of his 116-game AFL career.

"I've always believed Josh could do that," Walker said.

"The challenge is now for myself, Josh and the other forwards to be able to do it consistently. His game the other night, he set the scene early and his competition ahead of the ball was outstanding and for him to do it on a quality All-Australian defender will give him a lot of confidence and hopefully he can do that week in, week out and I can slot in right behind him."