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A chip off the old block

Geelong Falcon Sam Walsh in action against the Dandenong Stingrays. (Geelong Falcons Media/Brian Bartlett)

AS a kid growing up in Warrnambool, Danny O’Keefe remembers watching Wayne Walsh strut his stuff on grounds around the Hampden league.

Walsh played and coached in five Grand Finals at three Hampden league clubs, winning back-to-back flags in 1997-98 with his ‘home’ club Cobden.

O’Keefe now coaches Walsh’s son Sam at the Geelong Falcons, who’s already rated one of the leading draft prospects in 2018.

The 17-year-old has carried huge expectations onto the ground every game this season be that with the Falcons, the AFL Academy or Vic Country in the under-18 national championships.

But Walsh has not let those affect his performances, averaging just under 29 possessions, five marks and five tackles in his 12 TAC Cup appearances.

O’Keefe remembers Walsh’s dad as a player and said there’s similar traits in the way his son approaches his footy.

“He’s got the smartness but also the hardness of his old man,” O’Keefe told krockfootball.com.au

“They play in completely different areas of the ground. But at the same time, you can see those traditional football values that are instilled in Sam that Wayne definitely had what I saw in him as a player growing up.

“Sam has been huge for us and I’m excited for him with his football career and what’s ahead of him because I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be something special.”

Having won the Cameron Ling Medal with Australia’s under-17 side earlier this year, Walsh was recently recognised with the 2017 AFL Life Members Education Fund Award, where he’ll received $8000 to contribute to his schooling.

Previous winners of that award include Joel Selwood, Luke Hodge and Darcy Parish.

O’Keefe believes if Walsh was eligible to be drafted this year, he’d be a top 10 pick.

“I think he’d be gone pretty early,” O’Keefe declared.

“That’s the beauty of Sam and as a coach, you actually feel safe with Sam in the side.

“You feel that, even if you’re down on the scoreboard, you’re probably still in with a chance to win with Sam on the field.

“That’s a pretty good feeling to have.”

Twitter: @GreenBradley