Jaryd Cachia not getting too comfortable.


Jaryd Cachia knows more than most that in football as in life there can be no guarantees.

Now 11 senior games into his Carlton tenure, the bloke wearing Wayne Harmes’ No.37 guernsey understands there can be no guarantees and that his place on the list is there for the taking when Pat McCarthy overcomes the stress reaction in his foot.

“I don’t want to ever get complacent,” Cachia said after training at Visy Park this week. “Mick’s always been on to us about not getting complacent and he has been on to me for the past 11 games about not getting too comfortable.

“But you do feel more a part of the club, especially with the older players. Hopefully you get a bit more respect from them now that you’re playing senior footy.”

What a footy story Cachia’s is. Reclaimed by the Blues with overall selection nine in the 2012 Rookie draft, his playing career came full circle two years after he was taken in the corresponding draft of 2010 at 15th selection overall.

In between, personal and collective successes came his way, as an integral member of Norwood’s all-conquering 2012 premiership team and a top five placegetter in both his club’s and competition’s best and fairest count.

In this his breakthrough year, Cachia has got his head right. He readily admits to an improved demeanour with each game that he plays, and he knows that lessons have been learnt as he scrapped and scraped his way into the AFL system.

“What actually happened these past two years has probably been a good thing for me,” Cachia said. “I got to realise how quickly football can end for you.”

If 2013 was his breakthrough year then 2012 was Cachia’s watershed. Early days were difficult (he was dropped after his first game with the South Australian Redlegs) and he even contemplated a return to Melbourne midway through his two-year contract.

Thankfully it was the Norwood chaplain Andrew Aish, brother of the great South Australian player Michael Aish, who offered Cachia counsel in those dark days.

“Family was always a great support to me, they always have been and they always will be. But when I was over in Norwood I had a few chats to Andrew Aish, the father of James Aish who they reckon will go top three in this year’s draft,” Cachia said.

“Early on when I struggled with homesickness and my form wasn’t great I caught up with Andrew a few times over a coffee and he helped me through it. He was a pretty important person at that time and not many people know about it.

“I was hell-bent on making it back to the AFL but I put too much pressure on myself. That pressure ended up taking over most of my life and I became very pedantic about what I was doing. I almost took things too seriously, but once I started to relax I found a bit of balance. I’ve kept in contact with Andrew and he’s very happy for me because he looked after me.”

Not surprisingly, Cachia’s taken plenty from his first 11 games back at Carlton. He’s learned from opposition players about how they move and how they win the ball – a case in point, Collingwood’s Scott Pendlebury.

“It’s been a really good learning curve for me, to play on players like Scott Pendlebury,” Cachia said. “I lowered my colours that night, he really got on top of me, but I now look at someone like him and say ‘if I really work hard I could be better because I know how hard he’s worked to get to where he is’.

But there’s another salient lesson learnt also.

“Looking back now, and having had a chat to certain people, the thing is that maybe I wasn’t ready for senior League footy as an 18 year-old,” Cachia said. “Even though I thought I was at the time, maybe I wasn’t at that level.

“Maybe I hadn’t physically or mentally developed, and maybe that’s why it’s taken me four years to play AFL footy. That’s why I’d say to anyone out there ‘if you don’t get picked up at 18 don’t throw it away – you might be 24 before you get a chance’.”

While he’s undoubtedly giving his footy everything he’s got, Cachia hasn’t lost sight of the bigger picture either. With the assistance of the AFLPA, he shortly hopes to undertake a course with those other boys in blue, the Victoria Police, so that he has a career to fall back on if, perish the thought, football doesn’t work out for him.

“The Dog Squad is an area of the force that really interests me. I love dogs and I’m getting my own in a couple of weeks – an Alaskan Malimu not dissimilar to the ones Zach Tuohy and Andy McInnes have got,” Cachia said.

“I’ve got to undergo a police check and hopefully once that’s done I can start working in the next week or so. That will happen for the rest of the year and I’ve got hours that I sign on for. I’ll be spending a day or so with the different departments – the Dog Squad, uniform, recruits at the Academy Special Operations Group, Critical Response, Water Police and Search and Rescue – so you get to experience a lot of areas of police operations.

The Victoria Police will undoubtedly gain, just as Carlton has gained for the presence of Jaryd Cachia, who when asked how he’d best describe himself responded with a one-word answer.