HE MIGHT not be an AFL legend but there aren’t too many people in downtown Heathcote who get personal visits from current players.
Or are on first name terms with several coaches.
And have former greats giving them the occasional ring to see how they are going.
But at the Heathcote Health hostel it’s not hard to spot Ronald Walker – or realise here is a guy with navy blue blood running through his veins.
If the Carlton sign hanging on his door isn’t enough of a hint, drop in and check out his Carlton doona cover and matching pillow case.
Or walls hidden behind Carlton memorabilia.
No doubt about it; our man Ron lives; breathes and dreams Carlton.
And he was living that dream last week when some of the big guns from his beloved Blues made the trip north to catch up with one of their most devoted supporters.
“It was very good, I was really excited and happy to see them, it was a great honor,” Ron said.
Levi Casboult, Matthew Kennedy, Lachie Plowman and Angus Schumacher were the players who got the opportunity to come and spend a bit of time with Ron.
He has been a Carlton Football Club member for more than 62 years – and counting.
For decades he was a cornerstone of the club’s cheer squad and was still helping out on the big banner for every game into his 70s.
The towering Casboult, all 201cm of him, even mentioned he missed seeing Ron at the games – and missed seeing him in the action with the cheer squad.
Ron said he won’t forget chatting with the imposing full forward/ruckman.
“He is a big boy that Levi Casboult,” he said in the understatement of the visit.
The players spent quite a while with Ron and signed autographs and posed for photos.
“We just chatted about general things, how they were enjoying their footy and stuff,” Ron said.
He might not get to games these days but in his time Ron has seen eight Carlton premierships.
He knows Carlton’s form in recent seasons has been a far cry from the glory days but that has no impact on his love for, and belief in, his team; his boys.
“I reckon they are heading in the right direction,” Ron said.
“I like this coach we have now, Brendon Bolton – I think if the club just sticks with it they will be OK.”
One of the proudest pieces of memorabilia hanging on Ron’s wall is his personal message from playing legend Stephen Kernahan, when he was Carlton president, thanking him, for his “personal contribution to the Club as one of its longest standing members”.
Footy clubs, all clubs, need people such as Ron, they are the fabric that makes those clubs, and the teams they field, such an integral part of their communities.
Ron also has a few stories of his own to share from his time as a diehard supporter.
He remembers turning up to a Carlton training session one day, only to discover it was closed to the public.
Brett Ratten – the Carlton coach at the time – knew Ron as one of the club’s great characters and snuck him in to watch.
Ron also talks fondly of the support he received from ex-Carlton full forward Brendan Fevola during one of the toughest periods of his own life – when he had been diagnosed with lymphoma in his 50s, at a time he was one of the most active members of the Carlton cheer squad.
He remembers weekly phone calls from Fevola, checking up and seeing how he was going.
It’s a favour he will never forget.
The team at Heathcote Health won’t forget the visit in a hurry either, and wanted to share their appreciation for the Carlton players taking the time to make the trip to Heathcote.
“A big thankyou to Matthew, Lachie, Angus and Levi for coming – it certainly brightened everyone’s day,” Heathcote Health activities coordinator Linda Barrow said.
And gave Ron something new to dream about, under his Blues’ doona, with his head down for the night on his navy blue pillow with the white CFC brand emblazoned on it.