Brisbane's Nick Robertson living up to his toughness tag
THE Brisbane Lions got a beauty when they snared Nick Robertson in last year's national draft.
Reminiscent of club great Jonathan Brown, the 18-year-old takes a no-fuss approach to life, especially his football.
There's no beating around the bush with the down-to-earth 'Robbo', who says his game "has always been chuck your head over the footy and go hard at it".
It's simplistic - and Lions fans may have to get used to seeing him with a bandage around his head ala Geelong captain Joel Selwood - but it's working for the kid who was recruited from Joondalup Kinross, north of Perth.
He's played three senior games for the Lions, and already become coach Justin Leppitsch's go-to guy for the tough role of tagging.
The strongly built Robertson (188cm, 91kg) was assigned Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin in his second game, then St Kilda best and fairest Jack Steven in the Lions' first win of the season last week.
"It gives you confidence going forward when the coach has got some sort of belief in you to do those jobs," he said. "You want to do it to the best of your ability."
Not backward in coming forward, the youngster was critical of the way Collingwood stopper Brent Macaffer went about running with Cotchin the round before he did.
"I did look at Macaffer's way of tagging, and I didn't agree with his style in certain patches of play around the stoppages and what not. Just the holding ... there's no need to hold,'' he said.
"But Macaffer's done his job, kept him to whatever disposals. Might be the wrong way to do it, but he did it pretty well."
Also like Brown, Robertson has had to attend the school of hard-knocks during his short career.
A member of the exclusive AIS-AFL Academy, he was once talked about as being on par with other WA products such as Jack Martin and Jesse Hogan.
Touted as a possible top-10 draft pick, ligament damage in his right shoulder first suffered in 2012 saw him miss last year's national under-18 championships - and then slip to No.34 in the national draft where the Lions pounced.
"I had played hardly any football - six games in two years," he recalled. "It was really frustrating mentally, but I couldn't do anything about it. It was out of my control.
"I had no expectations at all that I would even be picked up ... it's just a dream come true to be able to play AFL after just limited games."
Part of an influx the Lions hope will eventually rejuvenate the club, Robertson was their sixth draft selection overall, behind South Australian James Aish (7) and Victorians Darcy Gardiner (22), Daniel McStay (25), Lewis Taylor (28) and Tom Cutler (33).
"My thinking of the draft was I want to get picked up no matter where I go," said Robertson, who made an instant impression by winning the club's 2km time trial during pre-season.
"I was ready to pack my bags and move interstate if that was it."
Thriving on the competitiveness on the big stage, Robertson will tonight get another big job when Brisbane hosts Sydney at the Gabba - possibly on Swans co-captain Kieren Jack. "Whatever the club wants me to do, I'll do it," he says.