Brisbane’s James Aish is the latest player to receive a Rising Star nomination, following his 25-possession performance in the Lions’ win over the Saints last weekend.
In recent years there’s been something strange about the seventh pick in the AFL National Draft.
Between 2006 and 2008 each player selected with pick seven went on to win the Rising Star Award the following year. First it was Joel Selwood, then Rhys Palmer and finally Daniel Rich. The two ‘number sevens’ before that group have turned into pretty decent footballers too – Paddy Ryder and Jordan Lewis. More recently, youngsters Ollie Wines and Josh Caddy have looked the goods.
Aside from Ryder, they’ve all developed into strong-bodied, combative midfielders.
Though the latest pick seven, Brisbane’s James Aish, isn’t yet as physically developed as those listed above, the early signs are certainly promising. Prior to being drafted, Aish was seen as an outside midfielder, but after just six AFL matches, he’s shown he’ll be much more than that. His 25 possessions in the Lions’ win against the Saints in Wellington on Friday included 12 contested possessions.
Pleasingly for Brisbane supporters, it appears the 184cm young gun will be given plenty of opportunities to develop as a midfielder this season. While many first-year players are eased into AFL, starting as flankers rather than on-ballers, Aish spent his first pre-season training with the midfield group.
“I’m learning off them – eating habits and just how to get the best out of myself” – Aish on housemates Daniel Rich and Rohan Bewick
“Dan Rich and Brent Moloney have been a huge help”, Aish told aflplayers.com.au ahead of Round 1.
“They’ve been really good. We’ve been working off each other and they’ve been giving me little tips and hints; just sort-of body positioning and stoppage-work – that sort of thing.”
It was good fun, but certainly not easy.
“The toughest part has been physically backing it up every day,” Aish said.
“There are a lot of mornings when you wake up pretty sore from the previous day’s work. But you just have to get through each day and maintain a high standard.”
As challenging as it was from a physical perspective, Aish said new coach Justin Leppitsch had found a way to ensure everything the Lions did during their pre-season assisted in learning his new game-plan.
Aish said Leppitsch had “been really good – really organised with his game-plan. He’s brought that in to training really well and we’re implementing it every drill. Every drill has a purpose, which is great.”
The new game-plan initially took some getting used to, but now Aish is looking forward to implementing it.
“you just have to get through each day and maintain a high standard” – Aish reflecting on his gruelling pre-season
“I’m probably a little bit naïve, because I didn’t see as much of Brisbane as other teams last year, but I think it should be a pretty exciting style of game-plan,” he said.
“Hopefully we play pretty good, attacking footy, but also a pretty strong, defensively-minded style as well.”
From a personal standpoint, as well as a strategic one, Aish says Leppitsch is a great coach.
“He’s also just really friendly, and communicates really well with all the boys. It just makes it easy to walk around the club.”
Aish’s teammates have also been very welcoming. Since moving across from South Australia, he’s moved in with Daniel Rich and Rohan Bewick.
“I’m learning off them – eating habits and just how to get the best out of myself.”
He set a number of small personal goals earlier this year, but had no doubt what was most-important.
“Just getting through the pre-season and gaining the respect of all my teammates and doing all those little things right. I definitely want to play as soon as I can, but I know I’ve got to earn that,” he said.
“Ideally I’ll put on a bit of weight in the coming seasons, so I’m able to battle with the inside mids. I see myself getting there at some stage, but at the moment in our team I’d probably fit in as an outside player.”
Though he’s likely to win a lot more uncontested than contested ball this year, he’s already shown a propensity to compete with mature bodies. He was just 16 years old when he debuted for Norwood in the SANFL; it had been 134 years since anyone had played for the Redlegs at such a young age. Aish was a dual premiership player by the time he was drafted by the Lions.
One of his premiership teammates last year, Essendon’s Orazio Fantasia, insists Aish is one to watch this season.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing James Aish play,” Fantasia said before the season began.
“He’s got a lot of talent and skill.”
After six outings for the Lions, there are thousands of Brisbane supporters looking forward to seeing how far he can progress for the remainder of 2014.
Many thanks to all who have sent a message through.. Loving the challenge of each new week and thrilled to be a part of the win!
— James Aish (@JamesAish) April 28, 2014
Q&A with James Aish
Which junior football club did you play for?
Who did you barrack for before you were drafted?
Who was your favourite player?
Andrew McLeod and Ben Cousins
Do you have any hidden talents?
What do you most like to do away from football?
Greatest influence on your career to date?
Person you’d most like to meet?
Greatest non-football achievement?
Completing Year 12
If I wasn’t a footballer, I’d be…
I love football because…
I get to spend time and compete with mates
Aish is elligible for this year’s 22under22 team – Will you be voting for him in the final side? Let us know in the comment box below.