|CARLTON midfielder Andrew Walker is aiming to play his first senior game of the year next Friday night against St Kilda, after overcoming a shoulder injury to resume with the Northern Bullants.|
Walker, 22, tore cartilage in his right shoulder in the Blues' final practice match against the Western Bulldogs in March, and has since embarked on four months of repetitive weight work to strengthen the damaged joint.
It was the second time Walker has suffered the injury, but the lay-off was longer on this occasion and restricted him to weights of less than five or six kilos.
After surviving a hit-out with Carlton's affiliate VFL team last weekend, Walker will pull on the Bullants guernsey again this Sunday – against Tasmania – before attempting to break into the seniors for round 15.
"That's my biggest aim at the minute," Walker said, in an exclusive interview on the club's website.
"I've talked to Ratts (coach Brett Ratten) about it and he said if my game fitness is up to scratch, then he'll play me."
Walker had been back in full contact training for three weeks before the Bullants' match last Sunday, and prepared physically and mentally to return to the game after a lengthy stint on the sidelines.
"I convinced myself to go into it pretty confident and have no worries about my shoulder, so I tried to hit it as hard as I could early and I think I blew up a little bit in the last quarter because I tried to go a bit hard early," he said.
"[The shoulder] seemed to get through ... I got a few big hits on it and it went really well."
Walker said the Blues' recent run of form – three wins in their last four games and a week in the top eight – inspired his recovery and desire to join the side.
"It's been exciting. I think that's one of the things that was getting me through, seeing the boys win and knowing that I was going to be coming back into a winning side instead of coming back into a losing side where there's not much excitement," he said.
"It's pretty exciting going down into the rooms and seeing the boys celebrate, which hasn't been done for a while."