Robert Walls

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For the New Zealand politician, see Robert Walls (politician). For the New Zealand painter, see Bob Walls.
Robert Walls
Personal information
Full name Robert Walls
Nickname(s) Wallsy[1]
Date of birth (1950-07-21) 21 July 1950 (age 64)
Original team Coburg (VAFA)
Height/Weight 193cm / 89 kg
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1967–1978
1978–1980
Total
Carlton
Fitzroy
218 (367)
41 (77)
259 (444)
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
1981–1985
1986–1989
1991–1995
1996–1997
Total
Fitzroy
Carlton
Brisbane Bears
Richmond
115 (60–54–1)
84 (55–29–0)
109 (30–78–1)
39 (17–22–0)
347 (162–183–2)
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 1980 season.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 1997.
Career highlights

Robert Walls (born 21 July 1950) is a former Australian rules footballer who represented Carlton and Fitzroy in the Victorian Football League (VFL) during the 1960s and 1970s.

Playing career[edit]

Carlton[edit]

Walls grew up in Brunswick, Victoria and was educated at Coburg High School. He initially supported Essendon like his mother, but ended up at Carlton because Brunswick at that time part of Carlton's recruiting zone.[2] He was recruited from Coburg Amateurs by the Carlton Football Club and made his senior VFL debut with them as a tall, skinny 16-year-old on 22 April 1967 against Hawthorn at Princes Park. He gave a sign of things to come when he scored a goal with his first kick. Walls would go on to play in three premierships with Carlton – in 1968, 1970 and 1972. He was judged Man of the Match in the 1972 VFL Grand Final when he kicked six goals against arch-rivals Richmond in a masterful display. He played 218 games and scored 367 goals for Carlton before obtaining a clearance to Fitzroy midway through the 1978 season.

Fitzroy[edit]

Walls made his Fitzroy debut in round 9 of the 1978 season, where he kicked 2 goals in a losing effort against Footscray. He went on to play 14 games, kicking 24 goals, in his first season at Fitzroy. He was only able to achieve one more game in the following season, while kicking 30 goals. In Round 17 of the 1980 season against Essendon at Windy Hill, Walls injured his knee in the third quarter and had to be carried off.[2] He announced his retirement shortly afterward. He had played 41 games for Fitzroy and kicked 77 goals to take his overall VFL tally to 259 games and 444 goals.

Coaching career[edit]

Fitzroy[edit]

After he retired as a player, Walls immediately took over as coach of Fitzroy. With a major clean-out of older players who were clearly "past it" in the club's disappointing 1980 season, Walls lifted the Lions to their best era since winning a premiership in 1944.

They improved from last in 1980 to fifth at the end of the home-and-away season in 1981, securing their finals berth with an upset win over Collingwood and then beating Essendon in the Elimination Final before failing by the narrowest of margins in the First Semi against the Magpies. 1982 was relatively disappointing due to a poor start, but with players like Gary Pert and Paul Roos from the club's recruiting zones and South Australian recruit Matt Rendell growing into stars, the Lions were back as a force at the end of the season. 1983 saw the Lions emerge after five rounds as favourites for the premiership and maintain that favouritism with a sensational win in a top-of-the-table clash with North by 150 points with Rendell kicking eight goals besides destroying Gary Dempsey in the ruck. However, inevitable overconfidence saw the Lions lose form and finish fourth after losing two hard-fought finals.

1984, with injuries plaguing the club and its lack of depth apparent, was initially disappointing but a remarkable recovery saw them enter the five after the final round only to be crushed by Collingwood. In 1985, the Lions' financial crisis emerged to threaten their future and this, along with more injuries, caused them to drop to ninth with only seven wins and two losses to last-placed St. Kilda. After this, Walls moved to his former club Carlton in a swap with Parkin.

Carlton[edit]

Thanks in part to an influx of interstate recruits including South Australians Stephen Kernahan, Craig Bradley and Peter Motley, Walls had immediate success, taking the side to a Grand Final in 1986 and a premiership in 1987.

The Blues made the finals again in 1988 but by mid-1989 they were struggling and Walls was sacked after the team lost a home match to the lowly Brisbane Bears.

Brisbane Bears[edit]

Walls coached the Brisbane Bears from 1991–1995.

It was revealed in the video "Passion To Play" that in Walls first year as Bears coach in 1991, as disciplinary action Walls authorised his players to don boxing gloves and beat 21-year-old teammate Shane Strempel repetitively in the head[3] until he was severely bashed and bloodied after which Strempel quit playing football. Walls' coaching style was criticised about the incident by Kevin Sheedy who has several times questioned his credibility as a football coach.[4]

In his last season, 1995, he had been told after Round 15 that with 4 wins and 11 losses for the season, he would not be re-appointed for 1996. But a major turning point in the season for the Bears soon came. In Round 16, against Hawthorn, Brisbane trailed by 45 points at 3-quarter time and ended up winning by 7, which remains a VFL/AFL record for the biggest 3-quarter time deficit turned into a win.

From there, the Bears continued their run and won 6 of their next 7 games. They found themselves in eighth position, and qualifying for the finals, after being second-last just 7 weeks earlier. They faced Carlton, the top ranked side in week one of the finals, and went down by just 13 points, a monumental achievement considering Carlton won the next two weeks by more than 10 goals to claim the premiership. Despite this turnaround, a change of heart was not considered, and Walls moved to Richmond the following year to coach.

Richmond[edit]

The Richmond Football Club appointed Walls as senior coach for the 1996 season. He was sacked after a 137-point defeat by the Adelaide Crows in Round 17, 1997.

Post-football career[edit]

Media[edit]

At the end of his coaching career, Walls was immediately in demand as a football commentator. He became a columnist for The Age in Melbourne (a role he continues to fill), and joined the Seven Network providing special comments during AFL matches. Later he replaced Malcolm Blight on the football discussion show Talking Footy.

When Seven lost the broadcast rights for AFL matches at the end of 2001, Walls was recruited by both Network Ten and the now defunct AFL-dedicated Fox Footy pay television channel. He provided special comments during match broadcasts, and was a member of Fox Footy's On the Couch with Gerard Healy and Mike Sheahan from 2002 until 2008. He then switched to the One HD Monday night program with Steven Quartermain to co-host the new football discussion show One Week at a Time. He also commentated for radio station 3AW.

Walls was involved in a feud with Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos, after Walls stated that "the Swans can't possibly win the AFL Premiership with Paul Roos' style of coaching". In particular, Walls was on Network Ten's commentary team when the Swans suffered a 43-point pasting from St Kilda, after which the commentary team were critical of Sydney's overall performance in that match. This was the turning point in Sydney's season, and ultimately they went on to win the flag after which Roos refused to accept Walls' apology.

Although no longer a television commentator, Walls continues as the "Special Comments Man' for Sports radio station SEN as well as appearing on its Crunch Time Saturday AFL preview program alongside Anthony Hudson, Dermott Brereton and Herald Sun journalist Mark Robinson. Between 1999 and 2011 he was a commentator for rival radio station 3AW.

Honours[edit]

In 2006, Walls was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame. His wife Erin, suffering from lung cancer, attended the dinner in one of her last public appearances before passing away on 9 July 2006.[5] With Erin, Walls had three children: Rebecca, Daniel and David. David went on to represent Norwood in the South Australian National Football League (SANFL), but his career was affected by three knee reconstructions.[5]

Walls was inducted into the Carlton Football Club Hall of Fame in 1990, and was elevated to Legend status in 2011.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Former greats find that coaching grates". The Age (Melbourne). 
  2. ^ a b Walls, Robert (14 April 2007). "Biffs, bumps and Bombers". The Age. 
  3. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/stories/s280733.htm
  4. ^ "Sheedy attacks Walls' credibility". Herald Sun. 11 March 2007. 
  5. ^ a b Walls, Robert (18 July 2006). "Erin, a football wife extraordinaire". The Age. 
  6. ^ Coutts, Ian, ed. (2012), Inside Carlton, Carlton North, Victoria: Carlton Football Club, p. 79 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Bill Stephen
Fitzroy Football Club coach
1981–1985
Succeeded by
David Parkin
Preceded by
David Parkin
Carlton Football Club coach
1986–1989
Succeeded by
Alex Jesaulenko
Preceded by
Norm Dare
Brisbane Bears Football Club coach
1991–1995
Succeeded by
John Northey
Preceded by
John Northey
Richmond Football Club coach
1996–1997
Succeeded by
Jeff Gieschen