THE name Andrea Walsh is most commonly associated with basketball when it comes to sport in Bendigo.
Walsh’s basketball resume speaks for itself – SEABL championships with both the Bendigo Lady Braves and Frankston, club and league MVPs, All-Star Five selections, the inaugural captain of the Bendigo Spirit in the WNBL… the list could go on.
But the former basketball champion who played 393 SEABL matches over 16 years is making her name in a new sporting endeavour – and doing it at the ripe age of 41.
Given the sporting pedigree in which she comes from, it should come as no surprise that Walsh has made a seamless transition onto the football field with the Bendigo Thunder, who have given her the chance to again scratch the itch that is her hunger for competition.
“No way did I think I’d be playing footy when I was 40,” Walsh said this week ahead of the Thunder’s Northern Football League Women’s grand final on Sunday.
“After basketball finished I spent a lot of time running to keep fit because I’m a very competitive person, but I got sick of doing it on my own and there was a bit of a void left in my life where I needed something else.
“When I saw a couple of basketballers such as Elise Strachan take up footy I thought I’d go along and have a bit of a look at Thunder training and two years later I’m still playing.”
Walsh is not just playing – she’s dominating the competition up forward having won the NFLW goalkicking in both her seasons.
She kicked 52 goals last year and has 56 as captain this season – a total of 108 from 34 games.
“I was playing centre half-back in the practice matches last year and there was a game where we were a bit low on numbers and I got moved to full-forward. I happened to kick a few goals in one of the quarters and I’ve been there since,” Walsh said.
As synonymous as Walsh’s name is with basketball, it’s a surname that also has a strong football connection in Bendigo.
Her father, Brian, won the Bendigo’s league Michelsen Medal as an 18-year-old with Sandhurst in 1969, played 115 VFL games with Carlton and Essendon in the ’70s and coached Golden Square to premierships in 1988, 1989 and 2001.
And her older brother, Darren, is a former captain of the Bendigo Diggers in the VFL and coach of Golden Square, while he’s still in the coaching caper with Mount Pleasant in the Heathcote District league.
“I can probably thank my brother a lot… when we were younger he needed someone to kick the footy with and we did a lot of that in the backyard,” says Walsh, who admits to having copped plenty of ribbing given the vast age gap to many of her Thunder team-mates.
“With him coaching Mount Pleasant, I’ve spent a lot of time out there listening and learning from him and he has been a great support.
“And I’ve spoken to dad throughout the season. He has played and coached and it’s good to be able to ask him a few questions and he certainly gives honest feedback, which is what you want.”
The Thunder takes on Keilor in Sunday’s NFLW grand final at Preston City Oval from 2.10pm.
It’s an opportunity for back-to-back flags for the Thunder, but they will go in as the underdogs given Keilor finished on top of the ladder and also beat Bendigo in the second semi-final.
“We’ve had a lot of changes throughout the year, so it’s a great effort to get through to another grand final, but we know we are going to have to play our best football because Keilor is a very good team,” Walsh said.
• Bendigo Thunder team:
B: A. Wilson, M. Barkla, G. Edlin
HB: S. Baldwin, J. Ross, C. Isaac
C: L. Flanagan, K. Jacques, E. Watkins
HF: A. Carrod, O. McEvoy, Y. Colley
F: T. Cochrane, A. Walsh, P. Cuttriss
R: C. Ladson, B. Humphrey, B. Ayre
Inter: L. Bibby, H. Perry, B. Jones, J. Louttit, A. Hay, L. Datson
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