Charlie Cameron congratulates debutant Noah Answerth after the Lions' round-six victory over the Gold Coast Suns. Picture: Jono Searle/AFL Photos
Charlie Cameron congratulates debutant Noah Answerth after the Lions' round-six victory over the Gold Coast Suns. Picture: Jono Searle/AFL Photos

Brisbane rookie Noah Answerth shows true grit

SOME of the AFL's best forwards can testify to Noah Answerth's determination.

The kind of grit that allowed the Brisbane Lions' rookie defender to treat a broken back two years ago merely as a stumbling block on the way to an AFL career.

The 19-year-old was playing for the Oakleigh Chargers in the elite under-18 TAC Cup competition in Melbourne when he was crunched in a marking contest.

A player had landed on Answerth's back, leading to the fracture of his L1 vertebra, towards the end of the spine.

It was only round two, but Answerth wasn't expected to play again that season - let alone be drafted at the end of the year.

He would be confined to a back brace for three months and had to wait six weeks before he was allowed to swim or ride an exercise bike.

"I had really good support from family and friends," he recalled ahead of the Lions' twilight clash with the Bulldogs tomorrow at the Gabba.

"I was pretty driven to get back as soon as possible. I had a good plan set up to do that."

 

Noah Answerth on the move against Hawthorn last week.
Noah Answerth on the move against Hawthorn last week.

 

Answerth had looked to Dallas Cowboys star Tony Romo for inspiration.

"He did the same injury," the teenager recalled.

"I took a bit longer (to get back). They (the Chargers' physios) were pretty cautious with my recovery (but) I think it's paid dividends now.

"I haven't got any back problems, which is good."

Though he tread carefully, Answerth's rehabilitation was quick enough for him to return to the field for the Chargers' last game of 2017.

It wasn't quite enough for AFL clubs to take a punt on him - just yet anyway.

"The Chargers were good enough to give me a spot as a 19-year-old, which they don't often do," he said.

Answerth would play every game in 2018. He wasn't going to be overlooked in the draft this time.

The Lions, who had been interested the previous year, pounced on him with their last pick in the national draft - No.55 overall.

"To get a spot on a list after all of that has been pretty amazing," he said.

"I didn't think I was going to be drafted. I can't thank Brisbane Lions enough for given me an opportunity."

Answerth has never been one to take things for granted, especially after his older Kade's failure to snare an AFL berth.

"He'd won B and Fs (with the Chargers) and was best on ground in grand finals ... (but) with my brother not getting drafted I never thought I'd be able to," Answerth said.

"If I wasn't going to make AFL, I'd still be playing footy and enjoying it."

 

Noah Answerth celebrates kicking one of his two AFL goals.
Noah Answerth celebrates kicking one of his two AFL goals.

 

Known as a sponge around the club, Answerth was looking to simply soak up as much information as he could in his debut year.

"Coming in, I was eager just to learn, get to know all the players and the coaches ... I wasn't expecting to play," he said.

After being given his senior debut in round six he has suddenly become an integral member of the team, which is entrenched in the top four, playing as a lock-down defender.

Skipper Dayne Zorko has waited almost a decade to play a final, but Answerth is on the verge of contesting a finals series in his first season.

The quiet achiever has come a long way since being given the run-around, by Swan Tom Papley, in his second game

"I walked off thinking I've got a lot to learn. He's pretty difficult to play on," Answerth said.

"I don't know if I've taken any scalps but I've been lucky enough to be given a few roles and done my job."

He took the honours against All Australians Toby Greene and Luke Bruest just last week in the Lions' win over the team he grew up barracking for, Hawthorn.

"I had to pinch myself getting to play on him," he said of Bruest.

It's nothing compared to the "surreal" experience of lining up alongside his childhood idol, ex-Hawk and now Lion general Luke Hodge.

Answerth recalls a conversation at the club prior to his first meeting with Hodge: "I had one of the coaches tell me, 'You're just going to have to be normal.'

"Once you're working with him, and get to know him, it does become normal."