BRISBANE'S Irish flyer James Madden received the ultimate compliment in the player's race following his breakout performance against Richmond last Friday night.
Madden left the field after the Lions' 28-point victory and was greeted by AFL Legend Leigh Matthews.
"He said 'well done, James, you'll play a lot of games of AFL'," Madden recounted on Tuesday.
"It didn't really hit me until the next day when I thought about what he said.
"To come from someone like that it was pretty special.
"Before I came over here I didn't know too much about Leigh, as I didn't watch AFL, but after being here for three years I know how big a name he is in the sport, so it was incredibly special."
It capped an amazing night for Madden, who in just his second game was integral in a remodeled Lions backline that was missing injured duo Darcy Gardiner and Ryan Lester.
The 21-year-old defender announced himself with 13 disposals, including eight intercepts, two contested marks and a thrilling goal on the run in the third term.
It's been quite a rise for the man that broke the all-time AFL Combine record for the 20m sprint late in 2017.
Madden played gaelic football at the same Dublin club as Brownlow medalist Jim Stynes – Ballyboden St Enda – before being snapped up by Brisbane in 2018.
After playing NEAFL during his first season he then headed home early in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Twelve months ago Madden was in hotel quarantine having returned to Australia determined to see out his quest at making it as an AFL player.
"It's a massive difference to where I was then, sitting in a hotel," he said.
"I knew I wasn't going to play AFL that year and now I've played two games … it's definitely a big turnaround.
"I'd started this journey, I wanted to see it out.
"There were always thoughts that I'd never get there. I thought I'd just go home and play gaelic because it (AFL) is a really unforgiving sport.
"There were times when I thought I'd never make it, especially with our defenders being so good.
"We have a very good defensive side, so it was certainly a thing in the back of my mind."
Madden said the passing of Stynes drew his attention to how big the AFL was, but it was watching former Essendon speedster Conor McKenna that really piqued his interest.
"I've always got Ireland in my mind," he said.
"I'd love to go back and play Gaelic football one day, but at the moment I'm determined to keep going with AFL because I really enjoy it."