A STELLAR breakout year in Ballarat had Hayden Walters interested in testing how far he could take his game.
This summer, Walters made Footscray Bulldogs’ Victorian Football League list.
There is plenty of hard work ahead.
Walters has enjoyed the step up in fitness work and training intensity, impressing Bulldogs’ coach Chris Maple with a big pre-season.
The East Point onballer can hardly wait to test his form in match play.
“You never know how you’re going to go playing until you get out there in a game,” Walters said.
“You can be training well but games are a different thing all together.”
The 21-year-old started sounding out VFL clubs, including North Ballarat and Essendon, at the urging of East Point coach Dan Jordan after a dominant season in the Ballarat Football League.
The timing seemed right for Walters to try.
He did not play TAC Cup under-18 football with North Ballarat Rebels – where Maple was coach at the time – opting instead to focus on schoolboy rowing commitments.
Walters then spent a year living in Canada, playing footy in the Ontario Australian Football League.
He arrived back at East Point for the 2012 season, but it was not until last year that he started to make fitness a priority.
And the results quickly showed on the field.
A chance meeting with Maple at the BFL best and fairest had Walters interested in joining the Bulldogs – a new extension of the Western Bulldogs’ AFL program.
“The Bulldogs, how I found them, just suited me best,” Walters said.
Joining the club has offered Walters the chance to work closely with triple Geelong AFL premiership player Joel Corey, a Bulldogs’ development coach, and share AFL facilities at the Kennel.
East Point remains Walters’ home club. The Bulldogs, like the Roosters, send players not required at VFL level back to club football.
Maple said it would be a week-to-week proposition, depending on the varying influx of AFL players in the line-up.
“He’s had a big pre-season and trained the house down,” Maple said.
“There’s still a long way to go but Hayden’s really improving.”