Brisbane Lions' young gun James Aish has put contract negotiations on hold for the immediate future.
The decision comes amid speculation the South Australian native could return to Adelaide at the end of his contract this season.
The Lions first pick in the 2013 national draft, Aish enjoyed a solid first season in Brisbane. Playing predominantly as an outside link-man, Aish averaged 17 disposals across his 21 games, entrenching himself amongst the Lions best 22.
Stemming from strong footballing pedigree, the hype surrounding the coveted junior was always going to be difficult to justify. Described as a "1 in 1000 player" and "the best 16-year-old I've seen" by Norwood football manager Mark Ross, Aish was burdened with expectation long before his first negotiated playing contract.
With experienced footballing minds in his family, Aish has clearly had sound advice to lean on. His personal support network, and the Brisbane Lions, should be applauded for keeping football as the priority amongst the hyperbole that is Aish's contract.
Understandably, the 2013 trade period is the justification amongst Lions' fans for the interest in the Aish narrative. The Lion's lost five young players to homesickness in this time, subsequently stalling the rebuild of the club. Since then, Brisbane has sought to bolster the club's internal welfare department to avoid a similar situation, leading to the re-signing of numerous prized youngsters.
Despite the commitment of Brisbane's other young players, Aish and his manger Liam Pickering have halted contract talks with the club. Although Lions talent acquisition and retention manager Peter Schwab remains confident of gaining Aish's signature, his hesitation has fuelled talk of his desired return to Adelaide.
Although the basis of an Aish exit has been based largely on his strong family ties to Adelaide, the strong possibility of a large pay day could be at play. With speculation Adelaide Crows superstar Patrick Dangerfield could return to Victoria at seasons end, the Crows could be in a situation to offer Aish a very attractive contract. This perhaps could be the strongest variable at play in Pickering delaying negotiations.
It seems the biggest factor underlying the Aish situation is the ambiguity of the Dangerfield contract delay. There are numerous possible scenarios. If Dangerfield leaves, will Adelaide lure Aish with a lucrative contract? If Aish wants to stay in Brisbane, will the Lions have the ability to match said contract from the Crows? Can Port Adelaide afford to bid? If money is such a major variable, is Aish open to moving anywhere to play?
Delayed contract talks in any sport produce hypotheticals and speculation by definition. In the case of James Aish and the Brisbane Lions, it is perhaps amplified given the scars have barely healed from offseason 2013. Either way, Lions fans and officials alike will be keeping a keen eye on Patrick Dangerfield's situation as much as their own James Aish.