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Footyology’s draft rankings – No. 13: Lochie O’Brien


Lochie O’Brien at the AFL draft combine. “I think you’ve got to have a passion outside footy,” says O’Brien, who wants to be a pilot. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Footyology’s draft rankings – No. 13: Lochie O’Brien

Bede Briscomb    

No. 13 – LOCHIE O’BRIEN
Victoria (Bendigo Pioneers)
Wingman/running defender

Born: 18/9/1999
Height: 184cm
Weight: 75kg
Disposals:24
Kicks: 10.9
Handballs: 12.9
Handball efficiency: 63%
Kicking efficiency: 60%
Marks: 3
Tackles: 2.3
Goals: 1
One elite attribute: Kicking Lethal, line-breaking left-footer who struggles for consistency on the contested side of his game.
Best-case comparison: Jack Newnes

WHAT HE’S GOT

Kicking: O’Brien’s left foot is penetrating, precise and his technique looks effortless. Will be an immediate weapon at AFL level.

Decision-making: O’Brien knows how to create drive from half-back. He instinctively lowers his eyes and looks in the middle to create link up opportunities. He doesn’t waste an opportunity to go inside 50.

Speed: Think Andy McGrath.

Tank: O’Brien was a successful runner in international competitions before getting serious about footy. Came second in the two-kilometre time trial at the combine.

WHAT HE LACKS

Contested possessions and tackling: O’Brien has said prior injuries made him a more cautious player this year which undoubtedly affected his contested possession and tackling numbers. He’s under no illusions about this as he gave himself a C+ grade on the year.

Contested marking: O’Brien is capable of a 10-grab game in the AFL but none of them will be contested. He just doesn’t have the strength, style, belief and desire to take tough one-on-one marks.

BEDE BRISCOMB CHATS WITH LOCHIE O’BRIEN

Lochie O’Brien’s left foot is lethal. In fact, it’s so precise that he just might be the best kick out of anyone in this year’s draft. Footyology sat down with the gut-running wingman to discuss his keen interest in aviation, who he models his game after, and his thoughts on being a rookie AFL player.

What do you think is the hardest position to play in footy and why?

I think a lot of the time it’s pretty difficult playing as a forward. Defenders these days can really read the game well and they’re positioning is good so when a backline works really well together it can make it really hard as a forward to find clear space.

Is forward the position you least like to play?

No, I wouldn’t say that. I like to play anywhere. As long as I’m on the field, I enjoy it. Playing forward is just one of the ones that I personally find difficult.

How do you assess your own performance after a game? Do you look at the stat sheet and have set KPIs you want to hit or is it something else?

We get challenges as part of the Academy. Obviously you can’t control your disposals because some games you might win by 100 points and some you might lose by 100 points, so it’s more just the one percenters like four tackles a game.

What grade would you give your 2017 season?

C-plus.

Anything of which you are specifically critical?

Probably the way I handled the nationals championships. I had an injury leading up to it, three weeks before it, so I went in a little bit underdone. But I just didn’t handle myself in the best possible manner. The way that I went about things and just expected good things to happen. I had a few things going around in my head like not wanting to get injured again, so I let myself down a bit there.

You made the All-Australian squad. Do you look at that as an opportunity to be drafted inside the top 10, top five, or does it not matter to you where you go?

If you get drafted you get drafted. It’s more just an opportunity to really enjoy the experience.

Do you have a number in mind in terms of where you want to go?

No, I don’t. It would be nice to go first round to build some confidence, but the number doesn’t faze me too much.

How would you react if you weren’t selected in the first round?

I wouldn’t be shattered. It would be a bit of a wake-up call and I’d take it on board for motivation and focus on the things I need to do to improve.

Which AFL player do you look at now and say: “That’s the player I want to be at my absolute best”?

Andrew Gaff. I’m a similar player type. Runs hard, good kick and a really good work ethic.

Lochie O’Brien swings on to his left foot during the under 18 championships. Photo: AFL MEDIA

You’ve got a keen interest in aviation and want to be a pilot. Do you think it’s important for a player to have other interests outside sport to succeed?

Well, for me, wanting to be a pilot really drives my academics and makes sure I get good marks. I think you’ve got to have a passion outside of footy. Work-life balance is important. It means that you’re not only thinking about footy and you’ve got other avenues if everything doesn’t go to plan.

What position would you like to be to start out your AFL career?

Wing. That’s where I’m most comfortable. I like to cover the whole ground. I think it would be a good starting point.

Do you have a goal in mind for year one in the AFL?

I think getting a game would be mine. It all depends on the situation, though. You might get drafted to a premiership contender like GWS and then it’s harder to break into the team, or you play for a team near the bottom of the ladder and it’s easier to get a game. If you just work hard and get a game then I view that as a good start.

What’s your biggest concern competing at the next level?

None. Obviously your club isn’t going to put you into the side if you’re not ready to go up against the big boys, so no, I don’t have a concern.

What’s the one criticism about your game that you keep hearing from scouts and the media?

That at times I don’t have enough aggression on the field. I need to work harder to get into a game and produce more four-quarter efforts instead of one good half. Also, put my head over it at times and tackle.

Let’s say you’re playing AFL and you start to hear some negative things toward you from social media trolls or at the game, how do you think you’ll react?

I think the last three years I’ve faced is as bad as it gets. As an 18-year-old heading into the draft and being a touted player, you’ve already faced people saying you’re not good enough to go into the first round and things like that. Copping criticism is part of being a professional, so it’s just a matter of making sure you handle it well and if you’re not, then getting the right help for it.

So if some idiot on Facebook or Twitter is berating you, you won’t feel compelled to respond?

No. It doesn’t bother me.

Say it goes the other way and you have a season like Clayton Oliver just had, and the Wayne Careys of the world are saying you’re a star and worth a massive contract, how would you react to that?

Obviously, it would be really nice to hear, but at the same time, it’s something you have to work out with your team. Just because people are saying it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, so it doesn’t make too much of a difference.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had this year?

It was from Patrick Dangerfield. Us Geelong boys went out for dinner one night and he said: “In the end, you’ve only got one coach. That should be your only coach. None of your friends or family should be your coach, so make sure when you’re at the football club, it’s all business and you’re full on. And when you’re at home, don’t listen to anyone that feels compelled to put in their two bobs’ worth. When you’re at home just try and think about the other side of life.”

Do you think you could contribute in an AFL grand final as the player you are today?

That’s a tough question. At this stage I could contribute, but I wouldn’t change the game too much. I’m still pretty young and there’s a bit of development to go. I’d get a tackle or two, but I wouldn’t be a game changer.

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