Tributes have flowed thick and fast for the late Alfie Walker (senior), who passed away last Thursday of a sudden heart attack.
The 53-year-old was a legend in local league circles, having at different times played for Crookwell, Goulburn, Boomanulla and even the Canberra Raiders, but he is most widely remembered for his cheerful disposition and larger-than-life personality.
The outpouring of love from the community in response to Walker's passing has been "at times overwhelming and quite lovely" in the words of Walker's son, Alfie Jr.
"The only way that you could describe it is that he was an absolute personality," he said. "Whenever people ... met him down the street, or talked to him in a pub or played him in footy, people always knew who he was and talked about him."
Walker's rugby league career began as a junior in the Shoalhaven in the 1970s. He played football across the South Coast, the Southern Highlands, and in Canberra.
He was called up to the ranks of the Canberra Raiders in 1986 and 1987, and played four matches as their 81st player.
During his time with the Raiders, Walker was a teammate of Crookwell's Ashley Gilbert, who was recently inducted into their Hall of Fame.
Walker "was always a very happy-go-lucky sort of a guy and loved a good time," Gilbert said.
"He always had a smile on his face. That's what I remember about him. He was always a very genial bloke, too. He'd never pass you by without saying g'day and having a yarn with you."
Gilbert recalled that Walker's warm personality was partnered with a talent for football that made him an excellent teammate and a nightmarish opponent.
"He was blessed with a lot of speed. He was very fast," he said.
"That's how he moulded his career, and his style of play was on his speed. He was super-fast off the mark and he was bloody hard to catch.
"I played against him as well as playing with him, and he was very difficult to catch."
In a touching mark of respect, the Canberra Raiders wore black armbands in remembrance of Walker during their clash against the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday.
In a similar vein, the clash between the Crookwell Green Devils and the Boomanulla Raiders on Saturday was dedicated to Walker, with both teams taking a moment of silence before the match in honour of their former team member.
"Today we play to remember one of the greatest there ever was: Alfie Walker!" the club said in a Facebook post.
"If you weren't lucky enough to know Alfie, he was probably the loud fella on the sideline giving cheek! He was a football legend and great friend to many," read another post from the Green Devils.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council mayor Bob Kirk said his personal relationship with Walker was one that usually featured a smile and a chat.
"He played a few games with the Gladiators and the Goulburn Stockmen when I was involved with them," Cr Kirk said.
"He'd always been a happy soul ... he was always a cheerful, likeable, happy, positive character.
"I saw him a few weeks ago at the opening of the photographic exhibition at the Regional Gallery.
"He was in there with Alfie Jr and family. I spoke to him on that occasion and he was just that same person again; just like me, a little bit older."
The photographic exhibition, Art of Ageing, was a special occasion for Walker, as it featured a portrait of him by local photographer Tina Milson that Alfie Jr said was a great honour for his father.
"It was really quite amazing," he said. "My sister and I, my wife and Dad's granddaughter went to that opening, and it was the proudest we'd ever seen him."
While Walker was a great player, teammate and friend, Alfie Jr said he would always remember his father for his sense of family.
"In all of the things that he did, one of the things that he was, was a great grandfather to his grandchildren," he said.
"For me, it was the way the way that he interacted with his children and grandchildren ... he had a great love for his grandchildren. I think that's what really changed his life."
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