No-frills skipper Walsh prepares to lead WA into battle
WA’s under-18 team leadership group, Alec Waterman, left, Connor Blakely, Jack Cripps, Jared Hardisty, Brad Walsh (captain) and Dylan Winton. Pic: Ben Crabtree/WA News

Brad Walsh may not be the fanciest draft prospect going around, but the solidly-built midfielder says it's grunt work, not the flashy stuff, which gives him the most joy on the field.

The 17-year-old from Peel was named captain of the WA under-18 side this week ahead of its opening game of the AFL under-18 championships against South Australia at AAMI Stadium on Saturday.

Potential West Coast father-son pick Alec Waterman (Claremont), utility player Connor Blakely (Swan Districts), midfielder Jared Hardisty (Claremont), defender Dylan Winton (Peel) and forward Jack Cripps (East Fremantle) round out the leadership group.

Walsh has a reputation as the best leader in the draft, having captained the AIS-AFL Academy on last month's European tour and the WA under-16s to a championship in 2012.

He said he had learnt to thrive in leadership roles after initially being surprised to be chosen.

"I guess it's just a role that I've attracted over time," he said.

"It comes quite easily to me. I find leading puts me in a better standing when it comes to games.

"I feel more comfortable knowing that the boys will always have my back and I'll always have theirs."

Walsh's emergence as a genuine draft candidate began in 2012 when he claimed the Kevin Sheedy Medal as player of the under-16 championships, an award previously won by AFL stars including Essendon's Brendon Goddard, Richmond's Brett Deledio and Fremantle's Michael Walters.

He made his senior WAFL debut as a 16-year-old the following year and was selected in both the level one and two AIS-AFL Academies.

Peel football manager Brad Bootsma described Walsh as one of the most diligent and professional young players he had dealt with and one who adjusted easily to senior football.

"He's just solid. He's basically one of the real old working-type players," Bootsma said.

"He's really worked on his speed over the last couple of years, but his ability just to get to contest, to contest, to contest and win clearances is his main go."

Walsh said he was constantly learning and trying to improve, but the contested stuff would always be his bread and butter.

"I love tackling, I love getting first hands on the footy and feeding it out to the boys who are probably a bit quicker than me and can probably use the ball a bit better than me," he said.

"That's where I like to base my game."

The majority of the WA under-18 squad is made up of players from the victorious under-16 side, something Walsh said should give it an advantage.

"I've heard some things already about the other teams being quite strong but we've got a bit of confidence knowing we can play as well as we did in the 16s," he said.

WA SQUAD

Ryan Lim, Sam Bevan, Harrison Court, Jared Hardisty, Alec Waterman (Claremont), Jack Cripps (East Fremantle), Shayne Hille, Tyler Keitel, Clayton Giblett, Scott Jones (East Perth), Ben Hancock, Dylan Winton, Brad Walsh (Peel), Clem Smith (Perth), Jarrod Garlett, Jarrod Pickett, Matt Ah Sui, Billy Frampton (South Fremantle), Josh Deluca, Greg Clark, Adam Creeper (Subiaco), Aidan Anderson, Connor Blakely, Chris Firns, Dylan Nelson (Swan Districts).

The West Australian

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