Zac Fisher will tell you himself that there isn’t a lot to do in his hometown of York.
Located 97 kilometres east of Perth and a place not even 5,000 people call home has produced just less than a handful of league footballers. A place so unique that you’ll find a skydiving attraction but not a local cinema or Mcdonald’s.
Even after spending years boarding at Guildford Grammar School and being away from home, one wouldn’t begrudge anyone for thinking the move from the small remote town to one of the biggest clubs in the competition would be daunting.
Six years later, the 24-year-old is loving life in the “big smoke” in Melbourne, at Carlton and is playing some career-best footy to boot.
Fisher is having his most impactful season in Navy Blue. Feeling the benefits of a full pre-season and no early-season injuries that have plagued his most recent seasons, the Perth Demons product is averaging 18 disposals and 1.9 tackles, and a goal per game across season 2022. He is also one of just five Carlton players to feature in every game at senior level this season.
Since his arrival at the club in the second intake of draftees after Carlton declared its ground zero rebuild, Fisher has featured 86 times for Carlton at senior level, only singing the song in victory before this season 16 times.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum this week, Fisher said that while there were some difficult times for both himself and everyone over his first five seasons, the closeness of the young playing group has helped keep the relationships and morale at the club high.
No pacts made to ride out the storm and cash in and one day win a Premiership together. Just a close friendship of a young group that has grown up and rebuilt an established football club together.
“There was no pact, but we have always been super close and I think some of the adversity over recent seasons has made us closer,” Fisher said.
“Our captain Paddy [Cripps] said one of the things he’s most proud of is the fact that no one’s really left. We haven’t been the best for a few seasons but we’ve all stuck fat and [are now] reaping some rewards.
“It’s good to see people like Charlie [Curnow], H [Harry McKay], [Jacob] Weitering all playing some super football. Jack Silvagni included.”
Now almost one of the senior players on the list, Fisher knows his role in the group is to help create a nurturing and welcoming environment for his teammates. For it was the same thing that Patrick Cripps and the other interstate players did for him when he first arrived.
With a large contingent of Western Australians on the list – continuing Carlton’s strong links to WA Footy, it’s an aspect of the club and community that Fisher is continuing to connect to with his teammates.
“I think the Baggers have always been really heavily WA represented,” Fisher said.
“It’s a long way but with so many of us here, we can create that fun environment and Western flavour. Especially with bringing in the likes of Jack Carroll and Jesse Motlop who are newish to the club.
“I feel like what Pat was able to do for me when I first got over here, I’m now returning the favour for them as well.
“I feel like I’m always sure to them that they can ask me any question they want. My partner Bella and I took Jack Carroll for a couple of months when he first came which was cool to do. Being able to train with him in the offseason with Pat as well… was super.”
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After spending the previous two seasons playing closer to goal, Fisher has settled into more of a split position under Michael Voss this year. Playing across half-forward, pushing up the ground, and helping create and link up in scoring chains in general play, along with small bursts in the centre bounces and on-ball have helped Carlton get into a position where the Blues are poised to play finals for the first time since 2013.
Voss’ playing days were just before Fisher’s time watching and growing up with the game but after a quick view of his highlights on YouTube when he was announced, he could understand why Voss was so revered in his playing days.
“I actually had to watch some of his highlights when he got appointed because I think it was a little bit before my time,” Fisher said.
“He’s obviously a superstar of AFL history.”
Fisher can see Voss’ playing style rubbing off on the Carlton midfield group and playing style this season.
“He (Voss) was such a tough player and I think that’s what he’s getting out of the midfield as well, especially how tough the brand of football that the mids are playing this season,” he said.
Fisher said the form he has displayed this season is all off the back of open communication and a good relationship with Voss, as well as playing to his strengths which saw him picked to be on an AFL list in the first place.
“When he (Voss) first got to the club, there was still a bit of COVID stuff going around so he was going through the club and I think nearly everyone on the list went for a walk with him. Just to get on the same page with where do you think you’re at and where you think you’re potentially sitting in his plans,” he said.
“I got drafted as an inside mid. He [Voss] sort of thought that I may not have the tank of a Sam Walsh but in little spurts, can be somewhat impactful. So getting hits on the ball or on the wing, I really enjoy it.
“Sometimes being a small forward can be a tough little job so getting a little bit of relief from that and going back to being a small forward in the 50 and having an impact there.”
While there has been plenty of change at Carlton since the start of the 2022 campaign got underway in November, Fisher pointed to the fresh set of eyes and maturity of the group as the biggest growth this season. As Carlton faces a crunch run of games as it looks to consolidate and build on its strong start to the season, Fisher knows that the group will need to draw on all of it to get through.
Now a senior player among the young group, Fisher, along with the coaching group, led by Voss can see there isn’t a ceiling on the group and what can be achieved this season. It’s one of the reasons why Fisher said Voss has had no problem showing his emotions in the huddle or post-game in the private moments in the rooms.
“He’s similar to the players,” Fisher said.
“I think there’s a level of frustration. You know, still, the belief that when we play some good football that, and I think letting the other teams know that we’re not going to just roll over and we can show that fight but I think frustrated but pleased, at the same time.”
Six years living in Melbourne and six years of playing for Carlton have given Fisher an idea of the magnitude of how big a town and how big of a deal in this town Carlton is. While he said he’s been grateful for a club like Carlton to have the supporters and support they had in lean years, the size of the Carlton faithful isn’t lost on Fisher and knows it can only grow if it continues building on its wonderful season to date.
“I think in previous years I’ve realised how big the club is with how passionate the supporters are. I’m loving playing in front of big crowds,” he said.
“The last three weeks we’ve gone Collingwood, Essendon, and then Richmond who are big rival clubs. They’re all big games that were lucky to play in.
“We’re disappointed that we were only able to take away one win but the crowds have been super and I think that will only continue to grow.”
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