Ash grew up on his family’s fruit farm just outside Katandra but played his junior footy in the town.
“I knew [Teague’s] family,” Ash said.
“I didn’t know him personally but I knew his family pretty well. His younger brother was playing in the seniors at Katandra when I was there.
“He reckons he should have a statue in Katandra! That’s what he was saying. At the primary school he’s got a photo on the wall of honour.”
Ash says the town was glad when Teague was appointed Carlton coach earlier this year but suggests they should curb their enthusiasm slightly.
“They were happy for him. But he hadn’t been there for 15, 20 years, they can’t really claim him!”
Ash has himself become a minor local celebrity. Everyone in town wants to know how his footy is going.
“It’s good they show an interest, but it can get a little bit annoying after a while.”
If Carlton hadn’t swapped picks with Adelaide at last year’s draft, a Katandra reunion at Ikon Park might have been on the cards. But as it stands Ash looks unlikely to be on the board when the Blues make their first selection – currently pick No.9 – on Wednesday night. One of the standouts in this year’s draft pool, Ash is tipped by rival clubs to be taken as early as Greater Western Sydney’s pick No.4.
Ash models his game on Giants star Lachie Whitfield, but knows he needs to improve his defending.
The son of champion country footballer Stephen Ash, and nephew of former Melbourne coach Chris Connolly – both of whom provide him advice – Ash wanted to make the AFL from the age of 10. It was after a strong showing at the under-16 national championships that Ash started to believe he could get there. And so began the sacrifices.
“Around the time that my mates and stuff started drinking alcohol and going to parties. Just sacrificing that. I didn’t drink until I won a premiership last year. That was the first time I drank. Before that, it was about sacrificing that and time with my friends to put things in place to make sure that I was giving it the best shot that I could.
“They were pretty easy to make. Because I love playing footy, so I thought if I want to do that for the rest of my life then it’s a pretty easy sacrifice to make. Obviously there’s times you think ‘oh one or two won’t hurt’ but just I stuck fat.”
Daniel is an Age sports reporter