IT’S hard to doubt the commitment of Howlong young gun Beau Walker.
Despite studying construction management at university in Canberra the classy midfielder still makes the weekly eight-hour round trip from the nation’s capital to play for Howlong.
The former Murray Bushranger played for Queanbeyan last year under former Essendon rookie and Culcairn coach Kade Klemke.
But in a boost to the Spiders’ finals credentials he decided to return to his junior club this season.
“I enjoyed playing at the higher level but it was hard to commit to training three nights a week, study at uni and also work part-time,” Walker said.
“There is also a lot of travel involved in the NEAFL with matches against the Sydney and Brisbane sides as well as Darwin.
“So I thought if I was going to travel I may as well come home and play for Howlong.
“My girlfriend comes for the drive most weeks so it’s not too bad.”
Walker returns to Howlong after a breakout 2012 season.
Not only did the 20-year-old win the Spiders’ best and fairest but also finished runner-up in the Azzi Medal behind Henty big man Jamarl O’Sullivan.
The then 18-year-old would have been the youngest winner of the league’s highest individual honour.
He attributed his sudden rise to the faith shown in him by former coach Marc Almond.
“At the start of 2012 I sat down with Marc and we set out some goals that I wanted to achieve,” he said.
“I always thought that if I could get fit enough I could surprise a few people and play some good footy.
“So I didn’t really doubt myself but I was surprised how well I polled in the Azzi especially after I broke my hand and missed the last couple of games.
“Looking back, Marc showed a fair bit of faith in me and took me under his wing a bit and gave me an opportunity to play in the midfield.
“So I owe Marc a fair bit for my development. He is definitely one of the most passionate coaches I have played under.”
After a slow start to the season, Howlong moved inside the top six for the first time last round with a 4-3-1 record.
The Spiders boast an impressive finals record and missed September action last year for only the second time since 1995.
Walker said the next month would be crucial to the team’s finals aspirations.
“We have got a couple of big games coming up in Billabong Crows followed by the bye, Osborne and Jindera,” he said.
“We need to win at least two to remain in contention.
“The three games we have lost we have be in it to the last-quarter before getting blown away.
“If we can improve our fitness and stick to our structures hopefully we can give finals a real shake.”