When Zac Fisher slotted that memorable Johnstonesque running goal from the flank at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, members of his tight-knit clan were there in their droves to share the moment with him.
Watching on from the stands was Fisher’s younger brothers Brock and Tye, his father Jeremy and mother Jessica, and his grandparents on both sides, all of whom had jetted in from Western Australia.
Seizing the moment, Fisher made his mark early - slotting his first six-pointer after having run down Gold Coast’s fleet-of-foot on-baller Aaron Hall – and at Ikon Park this week, the effervescent 18-year-old took a little time out to reflect on his maiden foray into the big time.
“It’s unbelievable to come from a WAFL club and step into a fully professional AFL club . . . you take it all in,” Fisher said.
“It’s obviously a huge privilege to play my first game, to play under ‘Bolts’ (coach Brendon Bolton), to play with fellow first-year players and to play alongside people like Marc Murphy. It’s crazy to think that it’s happened.
“It was always my goal to play my first game early (in the season) although I knew I had to display consistency in the twos, and when I got my opportunity I grasped it with both hands.”
Were there any pre-match nerves? Apparently so, but earlier rather than later according to Fisher.
“My best mate (Griffin Logue) played his second game for ‘Freo’ and I was so nervous watching him because the game (earlier against Melbourne) was pretty intense,” Fisher said.
“But then I got to the ground, had a kick on the field and my nerves settled. ‘Bolts’ said to me ‘Keep your focus narrow, focus on your pressure and your energy and you’ll be fine’ - and chasing down Hall was part of that pressure and energy mindset.”
The Zac Fisher story can be sourced to York, the oldest inland town in Western Australia. Situated 97 kilometres east of Perth, York was first settled in 1831 and takes its name from Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.
“York’s about an 80-minute drive out of Perth. It’s a small, pretty town, built by the convicts, and it gets pretty hot in summer and cold in winter,” Fisher said.
“My family’s always lived there. It’s where my Mum met my Dad and she came across from New Zealand with her parents when she was 12.”
Fisher’s old man turned out for York Football club more than 250 times and was, according to Zac, “a typical country player, just a brute, and, unlike me, a right footer”.
His mother is full Maori, and though she is still yet to return to her native New Zealand, “she really wants to go back and hopefully I can take here there one day”.
In Perth, Fisher’s formative years were spent at Guildford Grammar School, a place of learning now frequented by his two younger brothers. Guildford, according to Fisher, instilled in him a sense of independence which later helped him cope with the crossing of the Nullarbor.
“I boarded for five years at Guildford from Year 8, and roomed with a friend in my year out of school, so the move east wasn’t an issue,” said Fisher, who now shares digs with Harrison Macreadie and Samo Petrevski-Seton.
Taken with Carlton’s second selection (selection 27 overall) in the most recent national draft, the diminutive Sandgroper, who’d starred for his state in the Under 18 national championships, knew from the outset that he had to build his body.
“I’m an inside mid, but I’m still lightly framed and coming into the AFL there’s very strong bodies, so hopefully in the future I can play that role,” Fisher said.
“I’ve already put on nine kilos of body mass, so it’s coming along well. The club’s got me on a pretty big program and it’s carefully managed. They don’t want me to put muscle on too quickly because I could lose speed and break down after a while, so I have to hold my mass for now then put on more in the off-season.”
Fisher knew precious little of Carlton and its history, as his childhood allegiances were with West Coast until Chris Judd and Ben Cousins parted ways (“and I followed Richmond when Cousins went there”).
“They were great midfielders and I’d always wanted to be a midfielder,” said Fisher of the Judd-Cousins influence.
Of his drafting to Carlton, Fisher revealed that that the club had expressed an interest as far back as early last year “and they were probably my first choice”.
But there were other mitigating factors. As he said: “My cousin Dennis Armfield was here, as was Jesse Glass-McCasker, who I went to school with for four years in Perth”.
Zac Fisher pictured during his impressive AFL debut. (Photo: AFL Media)
Fisher believed that his kicking and decision-making were probably what caught the eye of the Carlton list manager Stephen Silvagni, and the aforementioned skill has largely been a lifelong work in progress.
“I was one of those kids who always had a ball in my hand,” Fisher said. “When I was a kid at school I always had a footy because I loved footy, and you practice kicking so much out here.”
Today, the No.25 famously worn by Alex Jesaulenko and Brendan Fevola sits comfortably on ‘Chippa’ Fisher’s back – and both men crossed paths with the teenager for the first time at a recent club dinner at Raheen.
“I was aware of ‘Fev’, but didn’t know too much about ‘Jezza’, and I know now,” Fisher said.
“Fev said to me ‘Wear the jumper with pride, and when you walk out just take it all in and think about what your family has done' . . . and that’s what I did.
“Jezza said to me: ‘You’re a forward pocket, but the game has changed so much that once you’re on the ground there are no positions'."
With the first obvious goal of a senior Carlton appearance now comfortably attained, Fisher is presented with a series of new challenges - most notably, keeping the pressure and energy up in the contest and basically keeping on the paddock.
“It’ll be a big challenge to play consistently over the next few weeks,” Fisher said.
“As ‘Bolts’ says of the approach to the game at this level, ‘Don’t get too high and don’t get too low, no matter what happens. Just focus on what you have to do and stick to that’.”