THROUGH unprecedented and uncertain times, finding a positive is often key to a good mindset. West Adelaide recruit Lachlan Squire is doing just that, and having faced his fair share of setbacks, hopes a path less travelled by leads to his ultimate goal of playing AFL football.
A Queanbeyan junior, Squire joined the GWS GIANTS Academy as an Under 13 and had been there ever since. A rare joint condition saw him sidelined for 13 months as he entered his 14th year, and a broken ankle right after his Under 15 national carnival with the ACT impacted his Under 16s preseason.
Squire missed out on selection for the NSW/ACT Rams over the next two years, but in his own words, played his best footy as a top-ager. While he was third or fourth in line among the GIANTS Academy midfield, the 19-year-old thrived at NEAFL level and even earned a league Rising Star nomination late in the season.
He was all set to return to NAB League duties with the GIANTS Academy as an over-ager, or otherwise continue to make a splash in the NEAFL across 2020. But with both competitions put on the back-burner due to the current pandemic, Squire was forced to find another way to stake his claim as a draftable talent.
Enter the West Adelaide Football Club, based nearly 12-hundred kilometres away from his hometown in Canberra. Like many mature-age AFL draft hopefuls, Squire has made the move interstate to get some football under his belt and show recruiters what he is made of.
After a two-week quarantine period, the well-built inside midfielder entered the Bloods’ Reserves side and is pushing for a League berth with just five games in the bank. Under the mentorship of housemate and vice-captain Logan Hill, and fellow Queanbeyan native Kaine Stevens, Squire looks poised for a crack at the top grade.
We sat down for a chat with him during the week, touching base on his footballing journey, how he came to the decision to move to South Australia, what he hopes to bring to the Westies side, and his future aspirations. Below are quotes from the man himself on a range of topics.
THE JOURNEY THUS FAR
“I started playing footy at Queanbeyan Tigers when I was about four, just through AusKick and that. When I was younger, I always used to play up and I’ve always wanted to make the AFL, that’s been my goal ever since I was really young. I used to just play footy and cricket, that was pretty much how it was. I had a few bad injuries when I was about 14 and 16, so I had to choose between footy and cricket. Ever since then it’s been footy.”
“They always had these carnivals in Albury which was the best out of the Swans and the GIANTS (academies), but I could never go… I had surgery on both of my knees when I was 13 or 14, it was a rare thing (osteochondritis dissecans). I had to have surgery and I couldn’t run for 13 months.
“Coming back from that, I was alright and played Under 15s nationals for ACT, then a week after that I broke my ankle and that put me out for most of the 16s preseason. When I played in the Under 16s Academy Series, I’d only been back training a few weeks beforehand, so that was not ideal. It taught me a fair bit about how you’ve got to look after yourself and coming back from injuries. It’s not easy but I reckon it’s mentally made me understand how to come back from setbacks.
“You get used to it with niggles and stuff like that but ever since then, I’ve made sure I’m really good with my gym work and rehab to try and make sure that I’m putting my body in the best state it can be to not get injured, and to physically be as good as I can.” Obviously that’s what you can control.”
THE GIANTS ACADEMY:
“I played for the NSW Under 12s because that was through school and then in Under 13s we started with the GIANTS Academy. I was with them ever since then… They’ve got good resources there, good coaches and people who will help you. As long as you put in the effort… I’ve sort of been a bit of a late developer with my football, mainly due to my injuries and that sort of stuff. I probably played my best footy in my 18th year, Under 16s I didn’t make Rams, 17s I didn’t make Rams either, so that’s sort of how it went.”
TOP-AGE SEASON (2019):
“At the beginning (2019) I was playing NAB League. I didn’t play badly, I played solidly the whole carnival but I didn’t stand out as much as I wanted to. I had probably one good game where I was able to get a bit more of the footy but I was playing that third or fourth mid behind Tom Green, Jeromy Lucas, and James Peatling. So I was sort of that next mid, I was playing well but just couldn’t get my numbers up.
“Then I played 13 games of NEAFL and probably played better there. I was getting better numbers than I was in the NAB League. It suited me a bit better I reckon, with more structure and I have a pretty mature body so I could play midfield pretty much every game which was good.
“Playing with blokes like Jackson Hately and Jye Caldwell was a really good experience. I think that back-end of the year was where I started playing my best footy, I got a NEAFL Rising Star nomination and had a few other games where I felt I played really well. That helped me, and (the GIANTS Academy) wanted me to come back as an over-ager. I was planning on being one of the hit-to players in the middle, which would have been good. And then to play NEAFL for the rest of the year but it didn’t work out so I’m over here (in Adelaide) now.”
MAKING THE MOVE
“It all happened pretty quickly. I guess there was nothing we could really do about it and the whole time we had hopes that things would be able to start up again. I just tried to control what I could control and that was just trying to keep doing my training, to keep trying to be as fit as I can and focus on stuff that I could keep improving on. Trying to find a positive out of it.
“I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do because obviously I wanted to still play with the GIANTS but I spoke with my managers and they thought it would be a good opportunity to come over and play in the SANFL considering it’s one of the only things going at the moment.”
“If things didn’t work out for me this year how I wanted to, I was looking at going interstate anyway to try and play state league footy at a higher level than the NEAFL. It was a good opportunity, but it’s definitely been challenging. I had to quarantine for two weeks and all that sort of stuff, coming to a new place without family and friends. I literally came in, had one week of training and played Round 2 without knowing any of the boys. So it’s been hard but I feel like I’ve played some good footy so far.”
COMMITTING TO THE MOVE:
“Each week it would change. One week I would be like ‘yeah I’m going’ and the next it would be like ‘nah I’m not going’. I didn’t really want to have to quarantine for two weeks because I had a few niggles after probably training a bit too hard in the break. I had a bit of soreness and quarantine wasn’t going to be ideal for that.
“I needed to keep my load up so I was a bit unsure, I didn’t want to come over here and take ages to get going, then have stuff start up back home and miss that so it was a bit hard.
“When they decided the GIANTS weren’t going to be playing in the NAB League, and there was so much uncertainty around when any GIANTS Academy games would start up, I though I might as well come over and give it a crack and just see how it goes.”
QUARANTINE AND KEEPING FIT:
“When we found out about all the gyms closing, I quickly called up our coach at my local club, Queanbeyan and took a heap of gym gear from the club, just stuff I would need. So I set up a gym in my backyard… We got sent programs and stuff to do from the GIANTS so I would go and do that with one of my mates and we trained pretty hard.
“I like writing programs for myself, you’ve got to figure out a way to keep motivated with weekly targets and challenges to keep yourself motivated. I enjoy doing preseason stuff because you get better. As much as it sucks, at the same time you get better and it’s good when you see improvements. I was able to find positives out of it and (understand) there’s probably people who don’t have the facilities right now that I do or the mindset just to work hard.”
“West Adelaide got some gym stuff for me as well, so we set that up in the backyard I was staying at. I made sure I got a treadmill so I could do some running. So I just did that and learned how to cook a bit and that’s pretty much it. I played playstation, there wasn’t much else to do.
“It went pretty quickly, you’ve just got to keep yourself busy throughout the day. I still did my gym sessions and my running sessions. The first week coming out (of quarantine) I felt a bit rusty, just with ball skills and I was pretty sore after the first few sessions, but it didn’t take me long to get back to feeling how I did. I’d only played one game since the end of August last year – I only played one practice match and then went straight into a pretty high quality game.”
THE WEST ADELAIDE ACCOMODATION:
“I’m staying with Logan Hill, who’s the vice-captain of West Adelaide. He’s got his own place so I’ve just got a room there, it’s pretty good. He’s pretty good to learn off and I just cook for myself and that sort of stuff.
“(West Adelaide) have been unreal. Just the support I’ve gotten from them has been second to none. From all the coaches, general managers and football directors. During my quarantine they would all call me up and see how i’m going, if there was anything I needed, they’d get for me and all the boys have been really welcoming.
“It’s a really good culture at the club, we haven’t had a great start to the year performance wise, but internally things are going well. We’ve got a good culture and that sort of stuff so I think we’re in a good spot. It couldn’t have really been much of a better transition for me, especially with my circumstances.”
“I have had a few good games and am starting to get into some good form… I had a quieter game on the weekend but next week I’ll just focus again on winning hard balls and good tackling.”
“But that’s how you learn, each week I’m learning what works for me and I’m trying to showcase how I can get into the League side and some different things. I think the best way forward is just to stick to my strengths and that’s what I’ve done so far this year. I’ve played five games now, my first one was a bit rusty but after that I’ve been playing some pretty good footy.”
STRENGTHS AND IMPROVEMENTS:
“I’m not naturally really quick or anything, I’m just solid all-round. I’m trying to figure out what a weapon of mine is and I’ve been able to (identify) that with my contested work and tackling. But I do have the capability to take pack marks, kick goals.
“I think it’s just more that my inside game’s really good and my contested stuff but that outside work, racking up numbers… that’s what I’ve been working on this year, just accumulating because the more times you get the ball, the more times you’re going to be able to show what you can do.”
“I want to obviously make my League debut, I’m close. I was an emergency last week so hopefully can get an opportunity soon, I’ve just got to keep playing consistent footy. Obviously the (end) goal is to get drafted, whether that’s this year or next year, who knows.
“I’m just going to keep doing everything I can to put myself in the best position, keep trying to play good footy and I think the SANFL’S a good spot at the moment to try and get in and show what I can do. Hopefully I can play some League games towards the back-end of this year and put my name up there with some solid performances.”
MENTORS AND TEAMMATES:
“I knew Kaine (Stevens), because he’s come from my old club so I’ve known him for a while. I like watching his game and he’s pretty good at accumulating the footy. He’s probably a different sort of player to me where I’m probably a bit more on the inside and tackling, whereas he’s able to find the ball a bit more on the outside and he’s really good at receiving the ball at stoppages. I watch his game for his running patterns, he runs smartly and gets himself in good spots and that’s been something that I’m trying to work on, not just running for the sake of running.”
“Ever since I’ve come over I’ve been close with (Hamish Ellem) because we have a similar connection, him and Kyle Martin who also came from the Swans Academy. So I’ve been hanging out with them a fair bit and doing some stuff before training, working on our game.”
LIFE OUTSIDE OF FOOTY
“I’ve got great support from my parents, they encouraged me to come across. They know what my aspirations are so they knew that this would be a good opportunity for me and they message me throughout the week and watch the games on Digital Pass. My grandparents watch the games on Digital Pass too and also my girlfriend back home, she’s been really supportive about it as well.”
“It is tough. It’s a weird circumstance because usually they’d be able to come up and visit. They were planning on coming up and visiting a couple of weeks ago but because the borders shut, or didn’t open, they haven’t been able to. So I guess that’s hard, because I’m not really probably going to see them until the end of the season, which overall will be about four and a bit months which is a fair while when you’re so young. But that’s just how it is.”
“I just go to the beach for a bit and do recovery, or go out for a coffee with the boys. But I’m pretty focussed on footy at the moment and I’m studying now as well so I’m a bit busy with that too.
“I’m working at the Westies club, behind the bar so that’s pretty chill. We train a fair bit, we train three times a week and then play so you do your gym sessions on top of that as well. You’re spending a fair bit of your time at the club and then in my spare time just exploring Adelaide a bit because I don’t really know much about it. Just going out an checking out the beaches, going out to different restaurants.”
With the SANFL teams named tonight, Squire will hope to breakthrough and make his SANFL League debut against Woodville-West Torrens on Saturday.