In the 2017 off-season, Hawthorn's Irish recruit Conor Nash – who will make his debut against Geelong on Saturday – returned to Ireland to play in the County Championship for gaelic football side Simonstown Gaels. The Hawks weren't happy.
In an interview with Irish website Balls.ie, Nash said he didn't tell Hawthorn about his off-season gaelic football cameo, but that he needed to do it to refresh after a 2017 AFL season plagued by a hamstring injury.
"I didn’t tell the club [Hawthorn], so that probably wasn’t the best," Nash said. "They were a bit disappointed! They just said ‘look, you are a professional. This [Australian rules] is your code now, if you were to get injured’, say if I re-injured my hamstring, it would set me back. It probably wasn’t my best decision. I told them months ago, it won’t be happening this year."
Hawthorn haven't held that little deception against him because on Saturday the 20-year-old utility will step onto the field as an AFL footballer for the first time.
Nash was a promising gaelic footballer and rugby union player growing up. He even played rugby for the Irish under-18 side, but turned his back on the local codes for a career in the AFL when Hawthorn selected him as a category B rookie in late 2016.
He said it had been "a bit annoying" to be an emergency on so many occasions but now his gamble to come to Australia and forgo the chance to join the Leinster Rugby Academy had paid off.
He's happy it has, because unlike in Irish sport, where players are banned from drinking alcohol all season, Hawthorn have a more calculated approach to booze.
"It is so different to back home when there is a fe—-' drink ban for a whole season," Nash said. "They know that is a complete farce. It does not happen and it is never upheld.
"We [Hawthorn] have an alcohol game plan! It is to do with the number of days in between, whether it is a six, seven or eight-day break you can have so many drinks as outlined by that. If it is six days, you are probably only having one or two. If it's an eight-day break you can have a good go. The club organise this. They have events, we stick together and socialise together when we can."
Nash also told Balls.ie about how Hawthorn's Irish recruiting strategy was different to other AFL clubs. He was first contacted by the Hawks when he was 15, and his father thought the phone call was a joke.
"They have guys over in Ireland watching secondary school football," Nash said. "They don’t tell us who they are but they have a few lads who watch school football and track minor. That is where they saw me, with St Pats in school and from there they can see ‘OK, they have progressed to play minor’ and they will follow minor as well."
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