Fresh start for U18s Jackson

By Beth Newman

Nick Jackson felt a twinge at state training, but brushed it off.

Lining up for Queensland against the Calder Cannons that weekend, that twinge became a quad tear, one that ended his nationals in his draft year.

“I thought that was it,” he said.

“I went home and had a sook and didn’t come to training for a couple of weeks.

“I was really over footy for a bit after I did that. I don’t think I wanted to come back.”

Jackson made it back into the Aspley U18s side, playing a handful of games to end the year and attending the AFL State combine, but at the time he thought that would be the end of his AFL push.

Then a call came. First from Aspley coach, John Blair, and then Lions Academy manager, Luke Curran, giving Jackson the opportunity for another shot.

“Blairy just wanted me to come back to Aspley just for pre-season training and see what happens with that and I was lucky enough to get a call from Luke, saying yeah, come back and do Lions and state again, so I was really stoked with that,” he said.

“I just got my head right back in it and my attitude is way better than it was last year.”

“If I didn’t get a call from Blairy or Luke, I’d probably just be playing for Sandgate this whole year and probably wouldn’t have taken footy seriously.”

Jackson started this season in stellar form, for the Queensland team and in Sandgate’s QAFL side, but in a cruel twist of fate, strained a hamstring at QAFL representative training.

“I went down to the QAFL men’s training and halfway through, I did my hamstring,” he said.

“As soon as I did it, I just thought I want to get it right for nationals.

“Last year, I was pretty cut and I didn’t do my rehab properly because I was really angry.”

That anger and bitterness seems a distant memory now for Jackson, who has found his niche this season, attributing a new-found confidence to AFL Queensland Academy and High Performance Coach, Adrian Fletcher.

“I think Fletch is the best coach I’ve ever had,” he said.

“He makes me think I’ve got a chance and that I can play good footy and I’m good enough.”

It’s taken a long time for Jackson to believe he is good enough, going back to his junior days playing in Maryborough.

“I never thought I was good enough, playing in the country and just watching all the Brisbane kids at the carnival just carve up and thinking I’m never going to be that good.

“I never really thought myself as a draft prospect or someone who was going to get picked up until last year and a couple of people told me I was good enough.”

The chance to test himself in the city motivated a move to Brisbane’s Nudgee College for his final two school years, one which proved pivotal in his development.

“It was my parents’ idea and I thank them for it,” he said.

“If I ever get anywhere, I’ll thank them because they’re the ones that moved me down.

“I wouldn’t be here right now playing state footy if it wasn’t for them.”

Jackson’s changes off the field have produced one of the best seasons of his life, a rock in defence for Queensland, with a show of his attacking abilities in the QAFL, with four and five goal hauls for Sandgate earlier this season.

That form has him hopeful, despite his injury setback, of a positive end to the year.

“I’m feeling really positive,” he said.

“I just want to play some good footy and see what happens at the end of the year.”

Twitter: @bethknewman

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