Among an experienced, star-studded and finals-hardend Aspley lineup on Saturday was a teenager who has simply grabbed his opportunity and vowed to never let go.
Lions Academy member Tahj Abberley was the youngest and second-shortest player on the field in Aspley’s shock 22-point Elimination Final defeat of the GIANTS, and the 17-year-old is just, “happy to be here.”
“It’s pretty unreal. It’s a really good bunch of boys, and I’m happy to be playing some good footy and playing finals now,” Abberley told neafl.com.au post-game.
The 178cm speedy midfielder gathered 12 disposals, four marks and a behind, in an exciting performance from such a fresh face to the NEAFL scene.
After not being on the list until midway through the year, Abberley made his NEAFL debut in Round 21 against the NT Thunder. Following an impressive debut display last week, his selection for the GIANTS clash was never in doubt for coach Daniel Webster.
“He’s a great kid and we love having him,” Webster said after the Elimination Final at Voxson Oval.
“Last week I loved his composure around the footy, he’s obviously very quick, he uses the ball well and is enjoying himself.”
It was an admittedly nervous debut for Abberley last week, and the step-up to both finals and playing against AFL-listed players was no easy welcome to NEAFL football.
“Last week was a bit nervous, I was a bit nervous in the warm-up and stuff, but once I got out there it was pretty good.”
“This week was much faster, everyone’s so much more skilful.”
Still in year 12, Abberley is apart of the Brisbane Lions Academy and has come through the junior ranks with Narangba and Moreton Bay. Aligned to Sandgate in the QAFL, Abberley played 11 matches this year, and is thankful for the developmental opportunity to play NEAFL football with Aspley.
“It helps me heaps, being able to train with some really experienced guys like Payney (veteran midfielder Matt Payne), giving me tips and telling me where to run,” Abberley said.
“I’m glad that I held my spot and am getting to play finals with a good bunch of boys.”
Abberley’s senior success over the last fortnight is emblematic of Aspley’s ability to consistently blood newcomers with the intent to nurture their clubmen for long-term success, albeit at the cost of a few senior players.
Struck with injury throughout the season, Webster is consistently rapt with the willingness of his inclusions to play their role to the best of their ability.
“What I’ve loved about those guys is that they just come in and do their job. Everyone on our list has got talent, so we’ll just back them in,” he said.
Aspley will go head-to-head with Southport at Fankhauser Reserve this Saturday afternoon in a battle for a grand final spot, and Abberley has his fingers crossed for an invitation down the M1.
“I’d like to have a crack, but we’ll wait and see,” he said.
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