Only a spectacular season from Carlton captain, Patrick Cripps could delay the inevitable.
Sam Walsh’s star continued to rise in 2022. Despite missing the first week of the season due to an ankle injury that was expected to cost him more time than it did, Walsh’s supreme fitness and his ability to recover quickly saw him pick up right where he left off in 2021. At some stage over the next couple of seasons, he will likely displace his captain as the most damaging player in the midfield.
And possibly become the best midfielder in the game in the process.
The undoubted best from his draft class (despite a pretty impressive 2022 charge from Connor Rozee), Walsh now finds himself in a more serious situation, and one that rushing back from may cause significantly more harm than good.
On Thursday, Walsh underwent surgery to remove part of a bulging disc in his back, which was placing pressure on a nerve. Whilst the procedure is a relatively simple one as far as backs go, opting to undergo the procedure is always the last resort after every other avenue has been closed off. In short, nobody wants to undergo surgery on their back – for many, it is a path that they would not recommend at all.
In 2017, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors was forced to take time away from the team during their playoff run, as complications with his back surgery from two years prior continued to escalate, leaving him with headaches and migraines, unable to coach the team. This was the result of a small “nick” in the spinal cord whilst undergoing a procedure on a ruptured disc. The pain and frustration were so overwhelming that Kerr openly stated that he would advise anyone to “stay away from back surgery.”
Whilst Kerr’s predicament was obviously at the higher end of problems that can arise from such a procedure, it should not diminish the risk it poses to one of the brightest stars the AFL has. Walsh is just 22 years of age and is coming into his peak years. Ask anyone who has experienced back pain – it never really goes away completely. The injury, or the lingering feeling of what once was, tends to stay with you in differing degrees.
I am sure that all precautions will be taken to ensure Walsh is not pushing too hard to come back too soon, but given the drive the young man possesses, you automatically know that he will be making his doctors make the tough calls every day once he starts to get mobility back.
Some have already commenced dancing on the grave of the 2023 Blues as a result of Walsh’s injury – people are strange like that. Whilst the club are stating that Walsh will miss the first month of footy, a more likely scenario is that he is gone for the first seven or eight weeks. No matter how tempting, you simply cannot rush this bloke back.
So, how do the Blues cover for a player the calibre of Walsh?
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