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   Sep 14

Andrew Walker says ‘the fire still burns’ if ACT Brumbies want 43-year-old to make a comeback

Andrew Walker playing against the Crusaders in 2002. Photo: Nigel MarpleAndrew Walker admits making a comeback at 43 years old seems too crazy to be true, but the cross-code veteran declared “the fire is still blazing” if the ACT Brumbies want him to play again.
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Walker has emerged as a potential recruitment option for the Brumbies as coach Stephen Larkham considers adding another player to his roster after injuries to Lausii Taliauli and Tomas Cubelli.

Walker hasn’t played professional rugby since retiring from the Queensland Reds in 2008 and he would become the oldest player in Super Rugby history if he is lured back on to the field.

Walker concedes he’s no longer the try-scoring freak he was in his prime, the dual international says he can offer wisdom to a Brumbies side that has lost more than 500 games worth of experience this year.

Larkham and Walker are yet to speak formally about contracts or whether Walker would be able to handle professional rugby again a decade after he retired.

But Walker said a taste of action at the Brisbane 10s last weekend reignited his passion.

“I haven’t really stopped playing footy, so my fitness is pretty high,” Walker said.

“I’ve probably lost about 10 per cent of speed, but I make up for that with experience. We can do things with the Brumbies and set it back on the right track again.

“The fire is still blazing, as soon as I threw the jumper on last weekend it turned into a bonfire. I was thinking, ‘how good is this?’.

“I really, really love the Brumbies so if there was anything I could do to help, then I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

The Brumbies are without Stephen Moore, Matt Toomua, David Pocock, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Taliauli and Cubelli this year, leaving a gaping hole in squad experience.

Walker spent 16 years playing rugby league and rugby union at the highest level and showed at the Brisbane 10s age hasn’t diminished his magic.

However, the transition back into Super Rugby would be a giant leap given Walker retired from professional duties in 2008.

He still plays rugby league in Brisbane, is a personal trainer and was even working on his fitness on Tuesday night with the “Break the Cycle” charity, which aims to offer life-coaching and mentoring to prevent self abuse, self harm, addictions, and low self-esteem.

“I know it’s a big ask to be coming back at 43 years old, but my body is holding up really well.I was a bit sore after the 10s but I’m already training again,” Walker said.

“If Bernie [Larkham] came with a contract, I’d be firing. I have been thinking about it … it’s a matter of me thinking ‘can I do it?’.

“I think I can. I have looked after myself since I finished playing professionally and the fire in the belly really fired up when I got to play in the 10s.

“There are a lot of new guys at the Brumbies and what I noticed out there was that they weren’t talking that much.

“I think that’s where Bernie would love to have me, to help the kids. If it does happen, it will give a bit extra. It would bring the youth back out in me again.

“It’s a big ask and I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it … I’d put that jumper on again in a heartbeat.

Larkham conceded the Brumbies coaches “half joked” about Walker making a comeback at the Brisbane 10s, but it planted a seed about what he could offer the team.

Walker could be add valuable experience to the Brumbies bench if required at Super Rugby because of his ability to cover a variety of positions.

Walker would become the oldest player in Super Rugby history if he is asked to make a comeback, beating Brad Thorn’s record of being 39 years old.

“I did see that statistic. I’ve always loved a bit of history, I’ll take it,” Walker laughed.

SUPER RUGBY ROUND ONE

February 25: Canterbury Crusaders v ACT Brumbies at Christchurch.

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