Let me tell you a couple of things about my friend and housemate Jason Castagna.
Firstly, since he was named as the Round 19 Rising Star nominee he has been putting up photos of himself around the house.
And secondly, he’s not the worst cook in the world but the first time he tried to make spaghetti bolognese, he ended up producing a pasta soup — it tasted okay.
I’ve been a bit harsh on him so far (and may have lied about the first point) but he thoroughly deserves the rising star nod and was unlucky to miss out a few times beforehand — he’s had a great year.
I first met Jason when he arrived a few days after me at a pre-season training camp in Cairns at the end of 2014.
We didn’t really think much of each other to begin with and it was only after the first few weeks that we started to bond a bit more.
We spent a bit of time in rehab together early days, which helped us form a close friendship but mostly our love for table tennis that laid the foundation.
Jason lived at home for the first two years while I stayed with my uncle and aunty for our initial years at the Tigers.
Upon deciding to move out together at the end of last year, we knew there needed to be space to play table tennis — so much so that we only looked at houses that could fit the table inside.
Everyone is probably aware of the story already but after playing a fair bit, we decided to form a little competition between Jason and myself.
The crux of it was the winner would be the first person to win 150 games and after considering a form of punishment for the loser, which was originally something small like a portion of a month’s rent but that wasn’t enough, Nick Vlastuin came up with the idea of a tattoo.
I went into the tournament thinking Jason was the favourite and I’d say overall he’s probably slightly better but 150 games of any sport could see one of us improve more than the other.
Some nights we would play one or two games and others we would play 15 depending on our moods.
We slowly built it over a few months and there were some big lead changes along the way. Sometimes one of us would be up by 10 or 15 and it would eventually be clawed back.
Towards the end we had a big day at our house and all the boys came around to watch the final few games. There was probably around 70 or 80 people in our shed at the time cheering us on so it was full on.
I was ahead by about four or five games when we went into the last night and I ended up leading 149 to 144 towards the end. I was pretty confident heading into the last game but it was actually pretty nerve-racking given all the people who were around.
Jason tried to hit a cross-court forehand during match point and it went straight into the net, it was a pretty good feeling but I think everyone there wanted Jason to win because he was the underdog at the time.
Surely enough, he was branded for life — which can be seen on Instagram.
Since then, we haven’t played much. I guess we burnt out when it came to table tennis.
We’ve moved onto FIFA now, but I doubt there’ll be a competition with similar stakes because Jason isn’t that good — I’m leading by about 30 games at the moment.
Luckily for Jason, he goes a bit better on the footy field.
We honestly couldn’t have imagined being in this position at the start of the year.
We went into the pre-season thinking we were fighting for the same small forward role in the senior side. We spoke about it to begin with and it was strange to hope someone does well while simultaneously realising it may be at the detriment of your opportunities in the side.
We didn’t talk much about it as the pre-season continued but we wouldn’t do extras on our own that often because the other person would have to be doing it, too.
Luckily for both of us, we were able to fit into the same team which has been fantastic and we’ve both been able to contribute somewhat throughout the season.
We tend to limit our competitiveness with each other for outside activities like table tennis, FIFA or basketball and don’t mention who’s kicked more goals or laid more tackles.
I’ve probably torn enough shreds off him now, but all jokes aside he’s a ripping guy and one of my best mates. I couldn’t be happier knowing he’s getting rewarded for his hard work.