James Madden was rightly on a high after Brisbane's 28-point victory over Richmond at the weekend. The 21-year-old Dubliner had just scored his first AFL goal in his second senior game as his side beat the reigning champions.
As he walked from the Gabba pitch, Madden met AFL legend Leigh Matthews. It wasn't until the following day that he realised the significance of the exchange. Matthews is officially recognised as the AFL's best player of the 20th century.
"I just walked down the race after the game, and he told me, 'Well done, James, you'll play a lot of games of AFL'," Madden said at a press conference on Tuesday.
"It was pretty special. It didn't really hit me until the next day when I thought about what he'd said. To come from someone like that, it's pretty special.
"When I came over here, I didn't know too much about Leigh, as I didn't watch AFL. After being here for three years, I know how big a name he is in the sport."
First AFL goal for James Madden
Talk about jets!
James Madden's first goal in the AFL was magnificent!#FootyOhWhatAFeeling | #AFLLionsTigers pic.twitter.com/fjmR2vMkmm
— AFL (@AFL) May 21, 2021
Madden played minor football and hurling with Dublin, and at U20 level with footballers. He joined Brisbane in 2018, the year after he broke the AFL draft combine's 20m sprint record at the European Combine in Dublin.
The weekend's game marked a major turnaround in Madden's Aussie rules career. A year ago, the Ballyboden man found himself in Covid-19 quarantine in Ireland having major doubts about his AFL prospects.
"This time last year, I was doing two weeks quarantine in a hotel," he said.
"It's a massive difference from where I was then, sitting in a hotel, probably knew I wasn't going to play AFL that year. I've played two games this year, so it's definitely a big turnaround.
"There were times when I thought I'd never make it, especially with our defenders being so good.
"I always thought I'd try to come back but it was more a question of if I would be able to come back - I wasn't an Australian citizen.
"I'd started this journey and I wanted to see it out. I always have Ireland in my mind and would love to go back and play Gaelic football one day but for the moment, I'm determined to keep going with the AFL because I really enjoy it."