After overcoming two knee reconstructions, Ahern – taken by Greater Western Sydney at pick No.7 in the 2014 draft – broke through for a senior debut in round 11 last year, finishing the season with 11 senior games for the Kangaroos.
But he found himself on the outer as North lost their first three games.
Ahern said he had tried to remain upbeat.
“Obviously it was a bit disappointing. But I just needed to go back to the VFL with the right attitude. If I went back with a poor attitude and just went through the motions I wouldn’t have got a call-up. So that was my focus, go back, work on what the coaches wanted, ride it out and try to get my spot back.”
Coach Brad Scott provided plenty of support.
“Every week that I didn’t get selected he would make the effort to catch up with me and tell what I still need to work on and what I’m doing well. He was really good with that,” Ahern said.
He said he was trying to learn from fellow midfielder Trent Dumont, who Ahern noted was very good at helping his side defensively.
Ahern didn’t set the world on fire at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night, but was reasonably content having finished with 15 disposals as North ended their drought with a 12-point win over Adelaide.
“I thought I played my role,” Ahern said.
“It was good to get back out there and to top it off with a win was unbelievable. That was all my focus was, play my role.”
Daniel is an Age sports reporter.