If there’s been more hype surrounding an under 18 player over the course of this season than that surrounding Patrick Naish, I’d like to see where that hype has been hiding.
Since under 16s level, Pat Naish has had to play footy with the tag of Richmond’s next father-son superstar. But you wouldn’t know it from just watching the energetic Ivanhoe Grammar student play because, if it has affected him, then he’s hidden it well behind his lethal right boot, electric pace and daring, kamikaze style of footy.
Naish describes himself as a “wingman that’s pretty versatile”, with ambitions to become a regular centre square attendant when he matures and nails down the inside game that he is bound to develop. Until then though, the son of Chris Naish is pretty handy for just a ‘versatile wingman’. If ‘Naishy’ had not have been so modest, he would have said he’s one of the most damaging midfielders in the TAC Cup, can go forward and needs to be stopped from anywhere within 60 metres of goal, and can even play as a running small defender.
So yeah, I guess that is fairly versatile.
The last two years have been a whirlwind for all of the potential draftees, but none more so than for Naish. He’s juggled his school studies with AIS commitments, school footy, Knights footy and Vic Metro. In year 10 he was identified by the AIS while playing in the under 16s National Carnival for Vic Metro, and he was already playing in the first XVIII for Ivanhoe.
By year 12 this season, he was a clear standout playing school footy, but didn’t let that distract him from what needed to be done to achieve the end game. For Naish it was all about consistency, and sticking to the task in hand, saying “keeping the same mindset I had for TAC Cup was pretty important just so I could continue to perform to the best of my ability”.
It would not have taken a recruiting mastermind to see he was a standout at AGSV level though, because he stands out regardless of the jumper he wears. Naish says the difference between the three levels is not much; “the intensity probably stays the same between the three it’s just the skill level. “Obviously metro is probably the highest one…but I think the intensity is there in all three”.
“I don’t necessarily think it was easier, I still put pressure on myself to perform every week”
It may be a bit surprising to hear him say the intensity at all three levels are similar, but when he is the intensity at all three levels, it makes perfect sense.
Moving seamlessly from Chelsworth Park for Ivanhoe to Etihad Stadium for Metro, Naish averaged 21.3 disposals at the National Carnival, including a 24 disposal, 2 goal effort against Vic Country, but he isn’t one to brag.
“I think three out of the four games I played pretty well. They were my main goals to play well in those games, so I think I achieved my goals for the most part in the carnival”
Pretty well? Hmm, maybe just a tad better than ‘pretty well’. It was clear the All-Australian selectors thought so too, with Naish one of nine Metro boys in the final team.
Naish is a confident, outgoing 18-year-old kid, traits that he may just as well get a marker out and write all over his forehead by the way he plays. But with Naish there is never any arrogance– he never gets ahead of himself. Coming back to TAC Cup footy after his All-Australian carnival he knew that he still had work ahead of him, stating “I felt like I still had to perform like I did earlier on in the season”.
His own expectations of himself have always been higher than those of any media hype or coach’s instructions, so he never considered taking the foot off the gas coming back to the Knights.
“I don’t necessarily think it was easier, I still put pressure on myself to perform every week. I probably had a little bit more confidence leading into the second half of the year knowing I can be as good as what I was but I don’t think it was any easier.”
You can hear the elation in Northern Knights Talent Manager, Rhy Gieschen’s voice when he speaks about Naish.
“He’s just a really natural footballer; he’s fantastic in traffic, he sees the game better than most, his gps results throughout the whole year in games were incredible”.
“I think he’s one of the best runners in games in the TAC cup and in the nationals…so I think that’s something that’s probably underrated with him”.
Gieschen wouldn’t have enough time to list all of Naish’s qualities in one chat but he summed it up with one line; “He’s certainly got a bit of ‘X factor’”. It’s something that anyone else who has ever seen him play would no doubt agree on.
To Richmond fans, that won’t really come as any surprise.
Chris Naish played 143 games for Richmond and 18 for Port Adelaide in the 90s, so Richmond fans are well aware of the Knights prospect.
“it’s probably been exciting in a sense that I could go to the club I’ve barracked for”
The father-son tag is something that seemingly has followed him his whole junior career. He’d be forgiven for growing tired of the extra media and scrutiny with which it comes, but to Naish, the effect has been minimal. “It hasn’t really been annoying, it’s probably been exciting in a sense that I could go to the club I’ve barracked for, but I guess it’s weird with all the media. But I don’t think it’s affected my performances”.
An impressive mindset for what could have been a difficult burden to carry. Not for Naish though, clearly.
Reflecting on his year overall, Naish has mixed emotions.
“I achieved all my goals that I set out at the start of the year so I was happy in that sense but I probably wanted to finish the second half of the year a little bit better than what I did”.
The harshest of judges on himself as always, he attributed the drop off in the second half of the year to “getting a bit tired”.
Come on Naishy, you’re tired after dominating school footy, TAC Cup, Vic Metro, AIS games and the under 18 all-star game on grand final day where you racked up 21 disposals against the best of the best?
Wait… where was the drop off again?
Doing his year 12 exams he’s focusing on school at the moment, rather than the draft or what he may be doing in a month’s or a year’s time. But in the back of his mind he knows that the next step of his career is just around the corner.
“I think the two weeks I have after exams before the draft I’ll get pretty nervous, a bit anxious, but at the same time I’m pretty excited for what’s going to happen in the next month.
“As soon as I get into a club I need to hopefully earn the respect of the playing group and just train hard and put my best foot forward to get those games”.
The light framed, 69kg midfielder struggled not to laugh, however, when he added “I need to work on my strength obviously first, get bigger pipes, but yeah I think that’s my main goal just earn their respect and work hard over the preseason before I start thinking about games”.
Pat Naish is a well balanced kid who takes everything in his stride and gets along with every new face he meets. It would be a monumental surprise if he were not to end up in the yellow and black next year, and an even bigger surprise for him not to be a huge success.