COLLINGWOOD recruit James Aish is determined to bounce back after a disappointing second year he concedes was affected by the constant speculation about his future at the Brisbane Lions.
And, after noting the rapid progress of draft peers Marcus Bontempelli, Patrick Cripps and Dom Sheed, the 20-year-old is motivated to show what he can do with the Magpies.
Aish refuses to describe his 2015 as a failure given the lessons he learned playing in defence and under the tutelage of Brownlow medallist Simon Black.
However he admits it wasn't the season he had hoped to produce, and admits the focus on his tenure with the Lions had a negative impact.
"I guess looking back it probably takes a little bit of a toll mentally and maybe a bit of the enjoyment," Aish told AFL.com.au.
"It was just a build up of everything, but then when you're actually out there playing it's not an issue or an excuse."
The speculation wasn't all Aish had to deal with during the season.
He was dropped for round two, missed three games after breaking his jaw and then finished the season early with finger surgery.
"[I] learned to deal with setbacks. It was the first time I was really dropped. Just dealing with the adversity and trying to improve every day even though it is not always going your way … I guess you come out the other end stronger," Aish said.
Aish joined the Magpies in a complicated trade that landed the Lions draft points for their Academy graduates, Ryan Bastinac and a future second-round pick.
Collingwood hopes he can make the leap from junior talent – he played in two SANFL premierships with Norwood before being drafted at No.7 in 2013 – to midfield star, matching the promise of Bontempelli (pick No.4), Sheed (No.11) and Cripps (No.13).
"You definitely want to be up there and play well. They all had a really great year last year, so I am looking to bounce back this year," Aish said.
Aish has been shadowing Magpies' skipper Scott Pendlebury during the pre-season as he prepares to show his wares.
Pendlebury has opened his eyes to the work required.
"You see what it actually takes to be one of the best players in the competition. He's already there but he is not stopping," Aish said.
"I might be at the club early on a Tuesday just doing some stretching, getting ready and he is there doing a weights session before a full day of work for us starts."
He has also continued to pick the brains of Gary Ablett after the two struck up a relationship when Aish trained with the Suns during his AIS/AFL Academy year.
"I saw him on the weekend. He's been good for me," Aish said.
Ablett told Aish to back himself in on the football field and stay confident while realising that progress takes time.
The quietly spoken recruit has settled into his new environment quickly, impressed that everyone at Collingwood is determined to be the best they can be.
"Every player from the top to the bottom of the list does work hard," Aish said.
"There is no easy day and every single day is a challenge. You get found out if you're not putting your best foot forward."
What Aish's best might be remains uncertain, with a promising debut season followed by an ordinary sophomore season, he is determined to make his mark.
"Hopefully I have a good NAB series and try to get my spot for round one," Aish said.