Taylor Walker’s kick is Roger Federer’s forehand.
His leg is a liquid cannon. It is versatile, capable of delivering bulleted frozen ropes, or finessed, curling, lateral, magnetic rainbows.
He doesn’t quite bounce on his feet like Federer does at the baseline – Texas has more time for theatrics than Switzerland – he’s more like a basketball player at the top of a hesitation dribble.
With ball in hand, there are two things on his mind – punishment and swagger. Walker dances around opponents, powerful and upright, but also careful. His sensibility is finesse and delicate timing but his reality is 100kg from Broken Hill. He wants to sidestep fools and play Arsene Wenger’s beautiful game, but if that fails, his back-up plan is Dustin Martin.
He is the best key forward passer in the sport. On Friday night, his flick of the foot kick on the near wing to Eddie Betts in the third quarter was impossible, a cousin to one of football’s greatest moments of the past few years, also against the Bulldogs.
Only Lance Franklin lowers the eyes like Walker does. And when they raise their eyes and think kill now instead of slightly later, both their kicks have the same trajectory of a booming, sailing slide, climbing a ladder into a night with no ceiling.
But Walker’s kicking brushes with impossible more consistently than Franklin’s. He is a much more technically proficient kick than Franklin, who is a freak, someone whose motion and execution is wonderfully nonsensical, existing in the last percentile of conceivability.
Walker, while unimaginable, also makes perfect sense. He is a towering, thunderous figure, and one who is able to cogently channel all his physical power, all of those 100kgs and 195cms, and transfer it to his foot. The weight of his presence is behind every one of his kicks, and his gift is that he can control his powers.
The Adelaide captain is one of the game’s most unique creatures. He looks like he should be the next Carey, but only four times in his 144-game career has he kicked more than five goals. The most goals he has ever kicked in a season is 63, the same number as Mark LeCras’s career-high, and below the likes of Jay Schulz, Daniel Bradshaw and Cameron Mooney.
Under the most primitive assessments, Walker’s career has been mildly underwhelming. But beyond the numbers, the outdated archetypes, the arbitrary expectations, the most resounding truth is that every time Walker takes the field he brings with him the possibility of pure football magic, the hope that he might combine grace and force in a way that produces something that we have never seen before, leaving the opposition helpless and reconciled.
On Friday night, he had a handful of those moments. A strange game, where the Dogs made an improbably seamless transition between halves from giving absolutely everything to giving absolutely nothing, became a mere footnote to Walker’s genius.
His first quarter no-look, over the shoulder handball that cleared two men and found Richard Douglas streaming through the corridor without breaking stride was surely intended for Riley Knight, but Walker has a habit of making logic both boring and beatable.
The Crows sit atop the shakiest AFL ladder in years. Their defence is magnificent, their forward line historic, their midfield mediocre. They are an imperfect team in a defiantly imperfect league. Walker, at any given moment, is capable of perfection. The regularity of that perfection was astounding against the Bulldogs, and if he can maintain something close to it, the Crows will become a team whose strengths are so destructive that teams will be broken and buried before they have a chance to exploit their weaknesses.