U18 TAC Cup Squad

Story thanks to Andrew Tate from The Age

Naish knows all about the dreams and the pitfalls of the yellow and black horde.

“Everyone loves them when they are winning,” he laughs during a break in his Year 12 studies and training for this week’s AFL Academy commitments.

In the 1990s Richmond had two of football’s most successful father-son picks in Matthew Richardson and Joel Bowden. But unlike Geelong’s riches won with Ablett, Scarlet and Hawkins, the Tiger pair were destined to endure a premiership drought that has now dragged into its 37th year.

Patrick Naish, son of former durable forward Chris, is 18 and on the verge of being Richmond’s first father-son selection since 2003 when Thomas Roach – son of Michael – was selected and played 11 games.

The Northern Knight half-back has spent the past two years in the Tiger training fold and the experience has prepared him for life at Tigerland should his name be called.

“I’m loving it. Just being around professionals pretty much 24-7,” he said. “I have loved the experience so far. They have been unreal the past couple of years I’ve been there they have been unreal in my development … but yeah, a lot of young faces all enjoying themselves pretty much.

“Because I’ve been there for two years now I’ve got to know everyone on more of a personal level, which has been unreal. But early on it was blokes like Brandon Ellis, Nick Vlastin, which has been unreal as well. Just teaching me little things. And then in the midfield group, Cotchie and Dusty and Caddy have been unreal … helping me and giving me little tips here and there.”

Naish’s father Chris played 143 games and kicked 21 goals for the Tigers between 1990 and 1997, including an unbroken run of games for three years up until the end of 1996. He finished his career with 18 games at Port Adelaide before starting a career in sports management.

Naish senior is now chief executive of the Reach Foundation after some years with the AFL Sportsready program. His background in youth development has stood his son in good stead.

“He’s been unreal,” Naish says of his father. “He’s helped me with footy as well, but probably becoming a person as well outside of footy. I think personally the better person you are the better you will fit into a footy club. He’s probably helped me with that a lot more, as well as footy obviously … at the moment I’m at school just trying to get through that, trying to do the best that I can.

“It’s over the air to be talked about obviously as a potential Richmond father-son, but I think there is still a fair bit to go, I’ve still got another full season ahead of me to get a kick. So hopefully I do play well in the games and then we can talk about that, but until I get there I still have a lot of hard work to go.”

Naish’s talents in various positions are clearly rated by the Tigers. AFL Academy coach Brenton Sanderson said on an AFL.com.au podcast that Naish was, “a very good decision-maker and exceptional kick … a perfect set-up kick across half-back”. He added: “I really like him. I think he’s going to be a very good AFL talent.”

Naish is clearly a student of the game, saying he has not based his own football on any one player, but how individuals play their roles on the field.

“I like to watch games, so if I go to a Richmond game I will just watch their half-back and watch their running patterns,” he said. “I pick out a position on each team that I watch. I change players each week pretty much. But I watch more of their positioning and what they do, the different players that play in the roles that I play.

“I feel like I play a lot of roles on the ground, but I enjoy playing half-back and wing the most … seeing the ground, seeing the play in front of me and making decisions from there.”

And where does he need to improve to ensure his selection?

“Probably my inside, contested game, that has gone up a little but I think can still lift a little bit more. And just to continue to work on my strengths, like my kicking and my running. Just continue to work on them to make them more elite.”

Naish’s pre-season trip to the United States with the Academy players was also an eye-opener as he trained with elite athletes at a Los Angeles college.

“It was similar to Australia in that they are all passionate about their sport,” he said of the athletes in the US. “The training facilities over there, especially the first week going to the academy was unreal … an unbelievable experience. It was bloody tough as well, but I loved every bit of it.

“Playing AFL has been something I have wanted to do since I was born, so I am going to do everything I can to do it and whatever comes along I am hopefully going to use to my advantage. It is something I have wanted to do my whole life – I’d do anything for it.”

Naish is also determined to keep the fun in his football, even as the Tigers’ notoriously demanding fans start counting their early-season blessings.

“[My goal is] obviously getting drafted to any club, but especially Richmond as I’ve barracking for them my whole life. I loved going to their games as a kid  … I think just loving it as a kid, because Dad played it as well and he passed it on in a way.

“I just loved going for kicks with Dad. As a kid I went to all of his – because he coached Scotch originally – I’d go there every week and just watch it 24-7. I just loved it.

“And even still it’s sort of a release for me just to take my mind off everything else and know that footy is always there that I can just play it and do what I love. And if I do get the opportunity to do that as a career that would be the best, that would be a dream come true.”