Shepparton News

Calm in a tough situation


- By Aydin Payne

He may only be in his second year in the AFL and fresh off his first finals match, but Lachie Ash already possesses a mindset beyond his experience.

And he has a worldwide pandemic to thank for that.

The Greater Western Sydney youngster has had an unusual start to his 34-game career.

From playing in empty stadiums to living 10 weeks on the road, the Invergordo­n product has experience­d a roller-coaster ride since his debut last year.

Although the 20-year-old conceded this year ‘‘started somewhat normal’’, Ash and his Giants teammates will have clocked up 73 days away from home when they arrive at Perth’s Optus Stadium for tonight’s crunch semi-final against Geelong.

Even his usual role in the side has changed since the start of this year’s campaign.

From using his abundance of footy knowledge and skill off half-back, Ash now finds himself curtailing the influence of the game’s biggest stars in a run-with role.

But a sign of the classy operator’s growth off the field is the way he has accepted life as a footballer during these COVID-19 times.

“Yeah it has been a challengin­g year,” Ash said from quarantine during the week.

“It’s been challengin­g in terms of people being away from their families and homes and then you have the unknowns. The unknown of where you’ll play and what’s going to happen next.

“The biggest thing has just been learning to accept it and learning to adapt.

“You just have to roll with the punches.

“You can’t control these things and the playing group has had the mindset of welcoming the negatives and try to look at the positives.

“When we had to pack up and move to Melbourne, I just saw it as a real positive experience.

“I was able to catch up with my Melbourne mates for coffee when you usually can’t see them in Sydney, so it was just little things like that.”

One glimpse at his playing statistics helps you notice how sublime Ash has become in his new role in the midfield.

After struggling to find his place in the senior side following a dip in form, Giants coach Leon Cameron asked Ash ahead of their round 19 contest about the prospect of tagging Essendon gun Darcy Parish.

And the 2018 Shepparton premiershi­p player jumped at the chance.

Ash limited Parish to 15 disposals — his lowest tally in a season where the Bomber averaged 30.7 touches a game.

It’s safe to say Ash — who averages 17 disposals and nearly three tackles a game — wore Parish like a glove.

“It’s had its own set of challenges, but it’s not too much different to playing as a defender,” Ash said of his new role.

“You still have to stop your direct opponent, but you get to more contests which would be the biggest difference.

“Matty (teammate Matt de Boer) has been awesome to learn off.

“One of the biggest things he has taught me is to not be stuck in that defensive mindset, you can go and hunt your own footy and make your opponent accountabl­e as well.”

Fast forward five weeks and the number four draft pick from 2019 has cemented his spot in the Giants’ star-studded line-up.

Ash is preparing for a semi-final bout after he helped the Giants clinch an incredible eliminatio­n final win over rival Sydney.

His first taste of AFL finals action resulted in the Giants hanging on for a thrilling one-point triumph.

“I think the biggest thing and first thing I noticed was actually playing in front of a crowd,” he said with a laugh.

“It wasn’t too much different to a normal derby. I was able to get a few early touches which settled the nerves, but the heart rate was definitely up when they came back in the last term.

“It was a great effort from the boys and it was really good to get the win over the arch-rival.

“We’ve had a really strong five-week period. We don’t see ourselves as a team just making up the numbers. We are here to win.”

Ash went on to offer everyone back home in the Goulburn Valley a message of support.

“I hope everyone is staying safe back home. There are a lot of people doing it tough,” he said.

“Hopefully us playing can help take their minds off everything and hopefully we can put on a good show.”

 ?? Picture: AAP ?? Adding to his bag of tricks: Former Bear Lachie Ash has relished a new role for the Giants this season.
Picture: AAP Adding to his bag of tricks: Former Bear Lachie Ash has relished a new role for the Giants this season.

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