Pride of South Australia feels home in Lions’ den
JAMES Aish looked right at home on an AFL field last weekend.
Still only 18, the midfielder gathered 17 disposals in an impressive debut for the Brisbane Lions in Launceston, despite the loss to Hawthorn.
"My first half was pretty good, but I did fatigue a little bit towards the end," Aish told APN. "Hopefully I can improve quickly and run out games."
Aish looks at home in Brisbane too after the Lions selected him with their first pick, and seventh overall, in last year's national draft.
His arrival from Adelaide came just a month after the alarm bells had rung when five young Lions had packed their bags and headed back to their home states.
"I can honestly say I haven't had any homesickness at all," he said. "I'm really enjoying the independence ... you really develop as a person.
"You obviously miss your comforts from back home, your mates and family, but I'm sure they'll be happy to come up for a holiday."
Aish now shares a house with West Australians Rohan Bewick and Daniel Rich, who will join Jack Redden in playing his 100th game for the club against Geelong at the Gabba tomorrow, and Victorian first-year player Lewis Taylor, who also debuted last week.
"They're all good fellas, all pretty easy going, we get along ... and are keeping the house in some sort of order," he said.
Aish also acquired recently-retired Lions champion Simon Black as his 'big brother', after Brisbane increased its "duty of care", by assigning each assistant coach the job of looking after their young players.
"He's been really good obviously for football stuff - there's probably no better person to speak to, especially as a midfielder that I aspire to be like," he said.
Aish regularly catches up for "coffees and lunches" with the Brownlow Medallist, who himself left Perth as a teenager to join the Lions.
"He knows what you're going through, knows what the expectations will be," Aish said. "He just helps me get through, both on and off field."
Aish has been playing in a man's world for a couple of years, becoming Norwood's youngest ever debutant in the SANFL at 16 and then being a part of two senior flags, which he said helped prepare him for the "pretty brutal rigours of training and the demands put on you" in the AFL.
He said he felt for his 2012 All-Australian U18 teammate Dayle Garlett, who this week walked out on Hawthorn and returned to Perth, but said, "it just shows you have to be 100% committed, and just have to want to do it."
Footy has also been in Aish's blood since birth. His grandfather Peter Aish captained and coached Norwood, before dad Andrew and uncle Michael made their mark with the club, Michael playing 300 games and winning the Magarey Medal.
"I'm really proud of the name and everything my family's done," he said. "It's really special, but at the same time ... they wouldn't have cared if I didn't play footy. Whatever I did in my life I would have had their support."
LIONS V CATS
Tomorrow, at the Gabba, 12.10pm (AEST).
Tonight, Dockers v Suns, 6.40pm (AEST)