Palm Beach Currumbin debutant Damian Ashby is the Round 7 QAFL Rising Star nominee.
A senior debut, a first goal, a rising star nomination, and a four and a half hour round trip to the game. Ashby’s story definitely isn’t a conventional one.
The 17-year-old starred on a wing for the Lions in their win over Wilston Grange.
The smooth mover glided across the ground, took marks, and even hit the scoreboard with a couple of goals.
That doesn’t even begin to tell his story though.
Ashby lives in Palmers Island in New South Wales. It takes him over two hours to get to Salk Oval, which means he stays home and trains with Lismore during the week, and plays with the Lions on weekend.
Most kids find out about their debut with a tap on the shoulder on a Thursday night, but it was a little different for Ashby.
“I got a call from Chad Owens, which was really nice, because he said that it was well deserved, and wasn’t a trial and error. That made me feel like I belonged, and gave me a bit of confidence that I’m a part of the team rather than just being tested out as a young player,” he said.
“I couldn’t have been happier, I rang around, told a few of my supporters and relatives, and everyone was so excited. It made it a bit harder to finish off my homework that night.”
Then came game day; but first, over two hours to think about the task at hand.
“I have to get up pretty early, and get into my routine. Dad comes to every game, does my stats, gives me the pre-game talk, so he is really my mentor. It’s been great to have such a partner in crime,” Ashby said.
“I was very excited, and thought I controlled my nerves well leading up to the game. It wasn’t until about 20 minutes before we ran out was when the nerves started to kick in.”
But before you could blink, he was making a mark.
“I was lucky to get my first touch within 20 seconds of the game when I led up and got hit on the chest. I was pretty lucky to get that early on,” he said.
“As soon as I got that first touch, I felt like I belonged, it really settled me.
“I think the boys looked for me as well, trying to get me into the game, which I was really appreciative of.”
More than a few at the ground likened the way he moves to Hawthorn star, Isaac Smith.
“That’s no coincidence. Dad has always talked about Isaac Smith, and we always study him and how he plays, so that’s definitely a player who I model my game on. He’s that running player who can break their opponents spirits by working up and down the ground.”
But why Palm Beach? Why travel so far for a game? Why move from his junior club is Lismore?
“I do it or the love of the game. It’s something I’ve got a real passion for, I want to play at the highest level possible, and I want to challenge myself every week,” Ashby said.
I have the feeling last week was just another step in the Damian Ashby story
“I’ve got a few goals on my walls. One of them for this year was to play Palm Beach Currumbin seniors,” he said.
“Moving on to next year I’ll probably move up to Brisbane for my University, so I want to play NEAFL, or at least do a pre-season with a NEAFL team and move on from there.”
Palm Beach Currumbin take on Labrador on Saturday June 11 at Salk Oval.
By Andrew Wiles