Oscar McInerney celebrates after kicking a goal against Fremantle in Perth last Sunday. Picture: Richard Wainwright/AAP
Oscar McInerney celebrates after kicking a goal against Fremantle in Perth last Sunday. Picture: Richard Wainwright/AAP

From park footy to the Lions

IF NOT for deciding to take a punt and follow his AFL dream, Oscar McInerney may well have been doing your taxes right now.

With a degree in accounting, the 23-year-old had been set for a desk job.

While that career path is certainly on hold, the numbers continue to add up for him as a footballer - a revelation, first in the VFL and now with the Brisbane Lions.

Standing at 204cm, McInerney always had the height, but an AFL berth looked well out of reach.

He never played TAC Cup in Melbourne, and for a time was confined to kicking around in suburban footy out in the city's east.

He was studying at university, working as a delivery driver, shower screen installer - the list goes on.

"Jobs here and there, like most uni students," he said.

"But it was always a dream to play AFL."

On the occasions he revealed that dream, however, most people would "look at you and go c'mon mate, you're playing local footy", McInerney admitted.

"But that's what I wanted to do," he said.

Oscar McInerney is making his mark at the Lions.
Oscar McInerney is making his mark at the Lions.

McInerney was fortunate he "had some good people around" him at Montrose, where he was coached by ex-Hawthorn and Carlton onballer Brett Johnson.

He encouraged McInerney to "have a crack at the VFL", saying: "You may as well go full bore at it."

So McInerney joined the Casey Scorpions, Melbourne's affiliate in the state competition, in 2016 and eventually got six senior games at the back end of the season.

He was named best and fairest in the VFL's development competition, effectively the reserves, and all of a sudden was in the sights of AFL recruiters.

One of them was from the Lions, who would take the beanpole ruckman in the rookie draft.

That happened after just a dozen senior VFL appearances - a far cry from David Mirra, who would spend almost a decade in the competition before getting his chance this year with Hawthorn.

Claiming another best-and-fairest award - this time with the Brisbane reserves in the NEAFL, McInerney went on to be elevated to the senior list this year and made his debut in round six.

"It's been a whirlwind - you sort of can't even remember the games," he said.

Playing as a forward target and back-up to ruckman Stef Martin, McInerney has played the past nine matches - and enjoyed his best performance in the win over Fremantle last week when he took six marks and kicked two goals.

"You've got to be able to play multiple positions," he said.

"During the pre-season, I worked with the development coaches, creating more flexibility, went to forward-line meetings just to create more avenues to getting into a game.

"There's always that room for improvement.

"The beauty of the thing is there's all the camera angles (in the AFL) and you get to sit down with your lines coaches and review the last game."

 

Oscar McInerney rucks for the Lions in the NEAFL last season. Picture Felicity Elliott.
Oscar McInerney rucks for the Lions in the NEAFL last season. Picture Felicity Elliott.

McInerney said he aimed to "constantly be that big target, bringing the ball to ground and create an opportunity for the smalls".

"But I'm just loving playing there (at Brisbane), even if it was back pocket. As long as I'm out there contributing," he said.

McInerney freely admits he covets the No.1 ruck role - when 31-year-old but supremely fit Martin hangs up the boots.

"Absolutely," McInerney said. "But we've got some good depth with Archie Smith.

"He's been in unbelievable form as well (in the NEAFL).

"We actually work quite hard together. His strengths are completely different to mine. It's beneficial to me learning off Arch. He knows how to use his body, use his size."

While beginning to find his feet at the level - just three years after running out in suburban Melbourne - McInerney says he still feels "a bit schoolboy like" sharing the field with players such as Luke Hodge.

"It's just an amazing experience," he said ahead of the Lions' home clash with Cartlon today.

"To play with a guy like him (Hodge) ... I probably had a poster of him up on my wall at one stage. Coming into it late you really appreciate ... just everything really."

News Corp Australia


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