Western Bulldogs tall Josh Schache has re-established himself in the forward line after breaking back into the side as a key defender earlier in the year. The recently turned 24-year-old caught up with aflplayers.com.au to chat about switching positions, the experience of playing in a COVID-affected finals series, and dealing with expectation as a first-round draft pick.
Owen Leonard: Josh, how has the finals experience been for you so far – particularly after that one-point win against your old club, the Brisbane Lions, on Saturday night?
Josh Schache: I’ve loved it. It’s been different than what you’d expect with travelling and quarantining, but I’ve loved just being around the boys all the time. Everyone’s been up and about and really excited for each week. It’s been an awesome experience so far, and just being together the whole time to enjoy each other’s company has been really good.
Have you enjoyed playing back up forward? You’ve said recently that you’re happy to play your role for the team, but is it good to be back in a more natural position?
I’m happy to play anywhere, if that’s down back or up forward, I’ve loved the diversity in the roles that I’ve played. Playing forward is all I’ve really done through juniors and in my AFL career so far, but I’ve loved going down back as well.
“In the last couple of years, I’ve really learnt a lot during the off-season about how to prepare and how to go into a season. That’s only going to keep evolving.” – Josh schache
Was it a surprise to get called up as a defender for the round 19 game against Melbourne after showing strong form in the VFL as a forward?
Going down back, that thought never really crossed my mind until a game against North Melbourne in the VFL, when I played in defence for a quarter. I took a couple of marks and didn’t mind it. The following week we played Sydney, and I played a couple more quarters down back before I came into the AFL side to play back against Melbourne. I took it on board; I was just really excited about it. I was excited to learn something new.
You were recruited as a forward, of course, by Brisbane, back in 2015 with the second pick in that year’s draft. How have you dealt with the fanfare and expectation around your career?
Early on, I probably wasn’t as equipped to handle that as what I would’ve liked to. Looking back on it now, I probably wanted to come in and play good footy straight away. But I understand now that it does take time, being able to learn and really feed off of other guys within the club.
This year, I feel like I’ve played good footy in the VFL and probably just didn’t have the opportunity with some of the guys within the club and the club playing such good footy this year, but I always knew that if I kept sticking to it and didn’t get too frustrated, and really just had the mindset of doing my best, an opportunity might arise.
Considering you’ve only just turned 24 and given key-position players generally take longer to develop, you’re still quite young for a tall forward. Do you believe your best football is ahead of you?
Yeah, definitely. I’m even still developing in the gym, still getting stronger and learning different ways to go about training in the off-season. There’s little bits and pieces to pick up each year that contribute to how you play, and even your mindset going to training and into game day as well. In the last couple of years, I’ve really learnt a lot during the off-season about how to prepare and how to go into a season. That’s only going to keep evolving. Each year is a new task and a new opportunity to keep getting better.
Looking ahead to the preliminary final against Port Adelaide on Saturday night, All Australian defender Aliir Aliir poses a particular threat to the forward line. How do you plan on negating his impact?
Aliir’s had an amazing year, and the stuff he does on the footy field is awesome. We’re all going to have to be on our game to make sure we can nullify that to the best of our abilities. Port have numerous good defenders and players within their team, so while he’s a big part of their structure, I’m sure we’ll have a few things in place for a few of their players.
We spoke a little bit about the travelling you’ve had to do throughout the finals series so far. It seems as though Port might have an edge in that regard, given they haven’t been required to leave Adelaide since round 23. Is that something the playing group has spoken about?
You can see our situation as a positive as well. You’ve always got access to coaches when you need them, and there’s the opportunity to catch up with one another and build those relationships, which we have over the last couple of years — being in the hub last year was a good time to do that as well —but you can definitely twist it into something advantageous.
Appreciate the catch-up, Josh. All the best for Saturday night!