Callum Ah Chee’s AFL career is only just beginning, but the 18-year-old has already shown an appetite for hard work.
While a handful of injury setbacks throughout his junior career hampered Ah Chee’s on-field development, the Gold Coast recruit maintains those challenges have helped him develop a strong mental resolve.
One night, two years before he entered the AFL system, Ah Chee found himself hobbling to training in the pouring rain.
“it was a challenge for my mental toughness so I’m kind of glad it happened.” – Callum Ah Chee
The teenager was in the middle of an eight-week stint in a moonboot, following a fracture foot and torn ligaments in 2014, when he left for a training session at Subiaco.
“It would’ve been a half-hour trip had the train not broken down about 15 minutes in, but I had to catch a replacement bus while it was raining,” Ah Chee told aflplayers.com.au at the AFLPA’s recent Induction Camp.
“I had no idea where I was going, but somehow ended up at Perth station. Around 20 minutes after that I rocked up at training with 15 minutes of the session left.
“It took about an hour and a half just to get there, but I called mum and said ‘I can’t do this again’ [to get home] so she came and picked me up at the end. But it was a challenge for my mental toughness, so I’m kind of glad it happened.”
Ah Chee’s attitude, combined with his exceptional talent, led some recruiters to believe he was one of the best prospects from last year’s draft crop.
But an inconsistent season meant various draft scribes found it hard to place Ah Chee in their predictions, believing he would fall somewhere late in the first round.
With just one selection before pick 20, the Suns pounced on the humble 18-year-old with pick eight, with list manager Scott Clayton hopeful Ah Chee will develop into a well-rounded player.
“He’s a forward, for his size he’s a brilliant mark, he’s a super kick, he’s so elusive – we all remember the great mark he took at the MCG during an academy game during the course of this year,” Clayton told goldcoastfc.com.au in November.
“But he’s more than that, we think he can end up going into the midfield to be an inside-outside player.”
To compliment his footballing attributes, Ah Chee also had the added benefit of playing against hardened bodies during his draft year, lining up for South Fremantle in the WAFL.
A few months on, Ah Chee has the opportunity to learn from one of the most talented young midfields in the competition.
“Everyone at the club is a mentor. The likes of Gary Ablett and David Swallow, you try and learn off all of them. I don’t have anyone specific just yet but I’m sure I’ll find one, there are plenty around to choose from.
“I’m just trying to get fit, work on my endurance and get a bigger body to adjust to the level of AFL. I’m happy working on my areas of improvement” – Callum Ah Chee
“Sometimes I sit in line, look at them and think, ‘how good is this?’ The guys in rehab like Jaegar O’Meara, while they’re not with the main boys at the moment, the way they go about their rehab is awesome and seeing how professional they are, you know why they’re such good players.”
Needless to say, Ah Chee is hoping to learn plenty from Ablett. The highly touted youngster is classy around goals, much like his new skipper was in his early days at the Cats. But Ah Chee says pre-season number one will focus on improving his weaknesses to complement his obvious talent.
“The club sat down with me and told me what I need to work on, but I guess they were the same things I knew I needed to work on so that’s a positive. My endurance and strength are probably my main two weaknesses, so once I get those up my other strengths will come into play a bit more also.
“Obviously the goal is to play some AFL games, but at the moment I’m just trying to get fit, work on my endurance and get a bigger body to adjust to the level of AFL. I’m happy working on my areas of improvement so we’ll go from there and hopefully things fall into place.”
And with the Ah Chee bloodlines already prevalent throughout the league – older brother Brendon made his debut for Port Adelaide in 2015 – there may be another destined for the big time.
Though he doesn’t want to add any unnecessary pressure on his brother, Ah Chee can see some obvious athletic talent.
“My younger brother Truan has got a lot of potential and is already taller than me at 14 years old. He’s pretty young, but maybe look out for him in the future.”