Jacob Allison is living out his childhood dream, but it wasn’t every kid’s chosen sporting path in Albany Creek.
Growing up on the outskirts of Brisbane, the Lions’ rookie faced the tedious challenge of thwarting the other football codes that garnered the popularity up north.
He did try one year of rugby union while he was at school, but that proved to be a fleeting relationship.
It was clear that AFL was going to be the sport for the youngster who spent his early years in Geelong before moving to Queensland when he was six.
“I just fell in love with the game and didn’t really care about what anyone else thought,” Allison told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“There’s no other sport that I’d want to be playing. I played a season [of rugby union] and it didn’t compare to how I felt running out to play on an AFL field. It was an easy decision for me.”
That decision has proved to be fruitful, with his hometown club selecting him with pick 55 at the 2016 draft.
The smooth-moving, clean user showed promising signs as the NEAFL season progressed, and eventually knocked the door down enough to be selected for his debut in Round 19 against the Eagles.
And while players often view their debut as a special occasion for those close to enjoy and attend, Allison’s first game at Domain Stadium had one obvious absentee — his brother — who was spending the same weekend celebrating his 21st birthday.
“I couldn’t get all of my family over there — only my mum and dad were able to come over — but that doesn’t make it any less special,” Allison explained.
“It’s an AFL debut and you have to take it in your stride. My brother was kind enough to message me and say, ‘Don’t even think about coming to my 21st, you put your best foot forward in the game!’ He was proud of me and excited that I was playing in my first game. Neither of us had any regrets.
“It was unfortunate that Tom couldn’t be there but he was there in spirit.”
Thankfully, Allison’s parents were able to make the journey west, attending his older brother’s 21st on the Saturday night, before jumping on a flight early on Sunday morning to make it to Perth on time.
Despite not having his entire support network on-hand for his debut, the slick winger put his best foot forward with 20 disposals, leading to him keeping his spot in the side the next week.
And his No. 1 fan wasn’t going to miss a home clash against the Western Bulldogs six days later.
“We were a bit disappointed to not get the win, but he really loved it. All of my family attended and I had a fair few friends there.”
Allison has joined a growing number of Queenslanders on Brisbane’s list this year, but that didn’t always appear likely.
They had invested plenty of hours into the raw and athletic local prospect at the Brisbane Lions Academy, but a late push from a Victorian club forced their hand on draft night.
“I went into the draft thinking that I could end up at any club,” Allison explained.
“Mum had my bags packed before the draft. I was trying to lay low and not really think about it in the week leading up, and mum was conscious of being ready because clubs were saying that as soon as you’re drafted you’re on a flight within one or two days. She packed a bit for me just in case.
“When St Kilda put a bid on me, I was thinking for a split-second that I was going there. Then for Brisbane to match it proved that they were happy with the player I am and for the time they’ve invested in me. I couldn’t be happier that they did want me.”
The 2016 draft class, which includes the likes of Hugh McCluggage (pick 3), Jarrod Berry (pick 17), Alex Witherden (pick 23), Cedric Cox (pick 24), Jacob Allison (pick 55) and Corey Lyons (pick 71), has the potential to be looked upon as a pivotal haul.
Five of those players selected in the national draft last November have debuted and made an immediate impact for Chris Fagan.
“I was unsure leading into the season as to whether I’d make my debut in Year 1,” Allison said.
“We’re obviously a young and developing club, but we also have a lot of talent and it’s not an easy team to break into. I was lucky enough to get a game and hopefully I’ve done enough to keep my spot for the moment.”
Breaking into the AFL system is something his dad and older brother had dreams of, but ultimately fell short.
His father was involved in a motorcycle accident as a young adult and was forced to stop playing, and his older brother showed promising signs as a junior but eventually succumbed to injuries.
With that in mind, Allison believes he is living the dream for them.
“I feel like my dad and my brother are living their AFL dreams through me, and I want to take them along for the ride. I didn’t make it here by myself, so I want to include them as much as possible.”
On the field, No. 37 has been nothing short of impressive in his first two outings.
He looks calm and assured with the football in his hands, with his penetrating right foot a key feature of his game.
In his first pre-season, he studied players with similar traits like Grant Birchall and Rory Atkins to see how they move with and without the footy, and to analyse their running patterns.
And he’s worked tirelessly on his decision making and skill execution.
“I’ve been working a lot on my short kicking — I feel like I do have a penetrating kick and have the ability to run — but it’s the decision making that I have to continue to work on,” he explained.
“It’s about identifying when it’s the right time to kick long or kick short and use the numbers coming through. There’s still a lot of growth in my game that I need to work on and watch other players that do it very well.”
2017 won’t be remembered in Brisbane lore as successful from a win-loss perspective, but it will be recalled for some of the gems they’ve uncovered.
And with three games to go, there’s plenty to play for.
“We’re looking to finish off the season positively and get off the bottom of the ladder, that’s our goal and it’s definitely achievable.”