SHOWS PROMISE: Nimbins Joey Walker, 16, gets his kick away in a recent SAFL game against Lismore.
SHOWS PROMISE: Nimbins Joey Walker, 16, gets his kick away in a recent SAFL game against Lismore. Northern Star

Walkers helping keep SAFL afloat

A WELL-KNOWN local Koori sporting family is playing a key role in keeping Australian Football viable in the region.

The Walkers consisting of Billy snr; his sons Billy jnr, Alex, Andy and Joey; a cousin Tony Green; nephews Jeffrey Walker and Michael Torrens; and an in-law, Rod Harrison make up more than a third of the Nimbin Football Club in the Summerland Australian Football League (SAFL)

But their involvement doesn't stop there.

Billy snr's daughters, Trisha and Natasha, act as runner and watergirl on game day.

Vince Cavanough, of Lismore, is another Koori running out for the Demons.

Billy snr is also the Nimbin club's vice-president.

The above represents a fair proportion of Kooris in a game that hasn't traditionally been their code of choice in this region. And they are literally keeping the local league afloat.

With Casino's departure earlier in the season, Nimbin's one-year recess in 2006 and a flirtation with the Tweed that proved impractical, the SAFL is straddling a fine line between maintaining the status quo and dissolving.

The competition would not be workable 1as a three-team league.

"Absolutely, it's not overstating it," Nimbin coach, president and dour half-back James Alexander said of the Walkers' involvement at the club.

"If you get any collection of eight or nine people in a team, that is a numerically significant contribution.

"They (the Walkers) are very important in keeping Nimbin afloat and you just can't understate the importance of Nimbin Football Club's continued involvement in the SAFL."

Billy snr is justifiably proud of his role in football.

"I have two cars and I send them over from Casino to Nimbin every week so I might just ask them (Nimbin) for a pay rise  but I don't get paid anyway," the 42-year-old joked.

"But, no, I do feel good about that."

The Koori contingent isn't just making up the numbers, either.

Catch a game and you will see Alex, who played one game with the Sydney Swans' reserves side last year, Andy and Joey creating havoc in the middle, and Harrison feeding his team copious amounts of Sherrin from the ruck with good back-up from Green.

Cavanough, in just a handful of games, is proving quite handy in the backline.

Nimbin has undergone something of a transformation in the past two years. Where once the team was seen as a home for 'oldies', now half the side's players are under 20.

And there is that 'Welcome' sign flashing for the Indigenous community.

"We certainly appreciate the role Indigenous people have made across the board at our club. It's quite a privilege," Alexander said.

"Billy jnr said he's never felt more welcome than at our club.

"It's pleasing that the young Walker boys are also good footballers.

"We look forward to maybe more Walkers joining us."

There is still a fair amount of work to do, though.

That winless record, stretching from Round 1 in 2007 to today, is something of a thorn in the side at Nimbin.

Billy snr, a senior health worker at Casino Aboriginal Medical Service, said while there was a way to go before the club could become a force, it would get there one day.

"I think we are heading in the right direction," Walker, who is enjoying having a run with his boys on Saturdays, said.

"We have a lot of inexperience but we're rebuilding.

"Long-term, if we keep this group together, with all the young ones, we'll get there, for sure."

Injury has set the club back recently, with key tall Angus Graham missing after hurting himself against Ballina last month, and Billy jnr, a former North Coast Golden Gloves boxer, out with hamstring troubles.

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