Oscar McInerney this week will achieve a milestone that eight years ago even he admits was less than unthinkable. He’ll play his 140th game to become the most experienced ruckman in Brisbane history.

“The Big O” will go past triple premiership ruckman Clark Keating on a quality list of big men who have made the centre circle their domain since untried South Australian ruckman Mark Mickan was the Brisbane Bears’ inaugural captain in 1987.

And while there are no 200-game Brisbane ruckmen, Stefan Martin (133 games), Matthew Clarke (130), Jamie Charman (129), Matthew Leuenberger (108), Beau McDonald (91), Mitch Clark (82), Mickan (48) and Dylan McLaren (48) also spent an extended time in the ruck, and won some special accolades.

Charman (2003) and McDonald (2001-02) shared the premiership hat-trick with Keating, while McLaren partnered Keating in the 2004 grand final. Clarke and Martin were club champions and with Leuenberger, Clark and Charman they had 15 top 10 finishes in the Merrett/Murray Medal.

McInerney, set to break the club record against arch rival Max Gawn and Melbourne at the Gabba on Friday night, offers a disbelieving laugh when mentioned in such company.

Indeed, it is an extraordinary effort by a player drafted effectively from the VFL Reserves with pick #37 in the 2016 rookie draft – pick #114 overall that year. He is the club’s best value ruck pick-up. Easily.

The journey of the soon-to-be 30-year-old began at suburban Croydon in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, the junior club of Damian Cupido, South African-born forward taken by the Lions at pick #6 in the 1999 National Draft.

He was never considered for the junior talent pathway and not until he had a major growth spurt of more than 10cm in Year 12 did he even consider a crack at a higher level. “I was just like every kid in Victoria who liked have a kick with his mates. When I shot up I thought ‘why not?’ I figured I’d play a few games, find out I wasn’t any good, and go back to Croydon,” he said.

He went to Casey even though it presented a serious logistical problem for a young man without a driver’s license. He’d catch a train out to Casey several times a week.

Why no licence? “Ï didn’t like driving,” he said simply of what was his own little secret. “I didn’t want any of my mates to know. I was going to Uni in the city so I just told people it was easier to catch a train,” he confessed.

In 2016 he played five senior games at Casey in the VFL and 20 games in the VFL Reserves, otherwise known as the Development League. 

His first VFL game in Round 3 was against Williamstown and local legend Nick Meese, a seven-time VFL Team of the Year choice and 2021 VFL Life Member. “He wasn’t so tall but he taught me a lesson about ruck craft,” he recalled.

Later in the year he played against Footscray and AFL pair Will Minson and Tom Campbell. “They just bullied me … I was as green as you could be.”

But McInerney did well enough one level down to win what turned out to be the development league’s last B&F medal and earn an invitation to the Draft Combine.

“I ended up speaking to a few clubs but I’m sure it was just a curiosity thing for most of them .. thinking ‘what’s this bloke doing here?’. They recorded the interviews and I’d hate to watch them back now. Ï was so nervous and so naïve. I couldn’t believe it was all happening,” he said.

“They said to me ‘you’re going to need a manager’ and I said ‘what’s a manager?”

But Brisbane were no tyre-kickers. McInerney met a club delegation at a café in Croydon which included then coach Justin Leppitsch, but he wasn’t getting his hopes up. And when Leppitsch was sacked at the end of the season he worried the landscape would change.

The 2016 National Draft was held on Friday 25 November in Sydney 50 days after Chris Fagan was appointed coach. He tuned in not expecting to be drafted … and wasn’t. Instead the Lions drafted Hugh McCluggage (#3), Jarrod Berry (#17), Alex Witherden (#23), Cedric Cox (#24) and Corey Lyons (#71) after having previously traded in Jack Frost from Collingwood.

But having been through the pre-draft process McInerney admits he did dare to dream ahead of the rookie draft the following Monday.

There was no television coverage – you just followed it pick by pick over the internet – and McInerney did exactly that on the train heading out to Casey for training.

But reception was dodgy, and he got a mountain of text messages from mates saying ‘congratulations’ before he even learned where he was going. “The first hour was mayhem,” he recalled, later pounded with text messages from his new teammates after word got around.

It was a big rookie draft. Sam Draper went to Essendon at #1 and Brisbane picked up GWS one-gamer Jake Barrett #2 before a host of soon-to-be AFL regulars … Tyson Stengle was #6 to Richmond, Peter Ladhams #9 to Port, Rohan Marshall #10 to StKilda, Cam Zurhaar #11 to North, #16 Jack Henry to Geelong, #20 Mitch Hinge to Brisbane, #33 Zac Guthrie to Geelong and #34 Robbie Fox to Sydney. And McInerney at #37.

The following day – “or maybe it was the next day” – McInerney was on a plane to Brisbane with McCluggage, Berry, Witherden, Cox and Lyons.

He stayed initially at Camp Hill with teammates Rohan Bewick and Michael Close. They were “two of the best,” he said. And luckily, both were drivers. His no-license status went unnoticed.

But the deception wouldn’t last forever. Getting a licence in Brisbane wasn’t an option because of the requirement to have logged 20 hours of driving. He hadn’t done it. But there was no such obligation in Melbourne so before Christmas he snuck home to finally put the matter to bed.

“Nobody up here ever knew I didn’t drive,” he recounted, admitting he was “so nervous” doing his test in Melbourne knowing a fail would have had dire ramifications.

The ever-personable McInerney, insistent he felt “so badly” out of place, worked hard in an eye-opening stint at the Lions before Christmas, and in February he got his own place in Coorparoo with girlfriend now wife Rachel. They’d been together since he was “15 or 16”.

As the last of the Lions draftees, McInerney had last choice of the available jumper numbers. Except there wasn’t a choice. The only one left was #46.

It was a number that had been worn by only six Brisbane players – David Wearne (16 games), Travis Baird (2), Irishman  Colm Begley (29), Broc McCauley (3), Sam Michael (3) and Billy Evans (7) – and most often for Fitzroy by, oddly enough, 1990 Brisbane coach and Queensland Team of the Century coach Norm Dare. He wore it 13 time before switching to #2 and later #9.

“My first thought was to go after Begley’s record but after a while I decided to keep it and make it my own,” said McInerney, now ranked second-all-time for AFL games in #46 behind only Geelong’s Mark Blicavs (259) and fifth for goals in #46.

Having relished the chance to train in his first season in Brisbane with Stefan Martin, who had played four years (2013-16) with Brisbane after five years with Melbourne (2008-12), McInerney shared ruck duties in the Lions Reserves in 2017 with Archie Smith.

So good was he that he won the Reserves’ B&F as he watched Barrett (Round 1), Frost (Round 2), McCluggage and Berry (Round 3), Cox (Round 4), Witherden (Round 14) and local rookie Allison and 2015 draftee Sam Skinner (Round 19) step up into the AFL side.

The trend continued as #1 pick Cam Rayner and recruits Luke Hodge and Charlie Cameron wore Brisbane colors for the first time in Round 1 2018, and 2017 draftee Zac Bailey followed in Round 4.

In Round 5 the Lions lost by five points to Gold Coast at the Gabba, and in Round 6, after Fagan rested Hodge and dropped Ryan Bastinac, Daniel Rich returned from injury and McInerney, 292 days beyond his 23rd birthday, became Brisbane player #313. He was player #1451 on the combined Brisbane-Fitzroy list.

He played 16 of a possible 17 games in his first season, dropped in Round 22 when Fagan chose to use Josh Walker to partner Martin in the ruck against Gold Coast at the Gabba, and has played 133 of a possible 139 games since.

He shared ruck duties with Martin in 2019 and took over as the Lions #1 man when Martin was injured for much of 2020 before going to the Western Bulldogs in 2021.

Now, having been ko’d two minutes into his 100th game in the 2022 elimination final against Richmond, he’s finished 4th-7th-9th-9th in the 2020-21-22-23 club championship in a side at the pointy end of the AFL ladder and is one of the most respected ruckmen in the competition.

Significantly, he shares with Keating the record of most finals for a Brisbane ruckman at 11 and last season had a club record 845 ruck hit-outs. Only nine players in AFL history have had more. He is second behind Martin for all-time Brisbane possessions and hit-outs, and third for goals behind Keating and Mitch Clark (who both played significant time as a permanent forward).

Having qualified as an accountant just before moving to Brisbane, McInerney once did work experience at the Price Waterhouse Coopers practice of Lions chairman Andrew Wellington. And as much as he made quiet an impression in a suit and tie he admits it was more a time which “reminded me how fortunate I am to be a professional footballer”.

These days, too, he’s a doting father after he and Rachel welcomed son Finn on 24 August last year. Pictures with the baby in the Lions rooms after the 2023 grand final are epic.

Having last August extended his contract until the end of 2026 and now destined to finish his career with the Lions, he says living in Brisbane separated from family is “tough” but admits he “absolutely loves” the local lifestyle .. and climate. 

Humble beyond humble, as polite and respectful as you’ll find, without a skerrick of an ego (beyond that required to play professional sport), he’s not a typical AFL ruckman. Not even close.

After TV cameras recently caught him in a push-and-shove recently flying the proverbial flag for a teammate, he admitted in a post-match interview it was “all front”.

He insists he is “not cool and not tough”, and although he more than holds his own in the physical stuff that is part of the life of an AFL ruckman, he says in typically self-effacing fashion “you’ve just got to fake it for two hours each week”.

He ‘faked it’ so well in the Lions’ 79-point win over Port Adelaide in Adelaide on Saturday he was arguably best afield with 18 possessions (15 contested), a career-best three goals, nine score involvements, eight clearances and 31 hit-outs as he continues to thrive in what is the last surviving truly specialist position in the game.


One of 27 specialist ruckmen to play with Brisbane, McInerney ranks prominently in rarely-highlighted statistics specific to the big men. In what is a good trivia quiz and a walk down memory lane for long-time supporters, in chronological order the ruckman have been:-

  1. Mark Mickan – 48 games - 1987-90
  2. Neil Hein – 15 games – 1987-88
  3. Adam Garton – 3 games – 1987-88
  4. Alex Ishchenko – 42 games – 1989-91
  5. Jason Millar – 1 game - 1991
  6. Shane Strempel – 2 games - 1991
  7. Ian Kidgell – 3 games - 1991
  8. Matt Rendell – 13 games - 1992
  9. Matthew Clarke – 130 games – 1993-99
  10. Damian Bourke – 22 games – 1993-95
  11. Brent Green – 5 games – 1995-97
  12. Clark Keating – 130 games – 1996-2006
  13. Beau McDonald – 91 games – 1998-2007
  14. Trent Knobel – 13 games – 2000-01
  15. Jamie Charman – 129 games – 2001-09
  16. Dylan McLaren – 46 games – 2001-05
  17. Cameron Wood – 16 games – 2005-07
  18. Mitch Clark – 82 games – 2006-11
  19. Matthew Leuenberger – 108 games – 2007-15
  20. Broc McCauley – 3 games - 2011
  21. Ben Hudson – 18 games - 2012
  22. Billy Longer – 9 games – 2012-13
  23. Stefan Martin – 133 games – 2013-20
  24. Trent West – 16 games – 2014-16
  25. Archie Smith – 16 games – 2016-20
  26. Oscar McInerney – 139 games – 2018-Current
  27. Darcy Fort – 27 games – 2022-Current



McInerney isn’t the only value-plus ruck pick-up. Mickan was a start-up concession from South Australia and Keating and Charman were Queensland zone concessions. Matthew Clarke was pick #42 in the 1992 Pre-Season Draft, McLaren pick #9 in the 2000 Pre-Season Draft, McDonald pick #73 in the 1997 National Draft, and Martin was traded in for picks #52 and #71.


The Lions have invested four first-round picks in the National Draft on ruckmen – Leuenberger (#4), Longer (#8), Mitch Clark (#9) and Wood (#18). And Ishchenko traded pick #2 in the 1988 National Draft to West Coast for Ishchenko.


5 - Stefan Martin – T1st (2015), 3rd (2016-18), 4th (2017), 7th (2019)
4 - Matthew Clarke – 1st (1997), 2nd (1994-96), 4th (1995)
4 - Oscar McInerney – 4th (2020), 7th (2021), 9th (2022-23)
3 - Matthew Leuenberger – 6th (2011-13), 9th (2010)
2 – Jamie Charman – 6th (2006), T10th (2003)
1 – Mark Mickan – T3rd (1987)
1 – Mitch Clark – 3rd (2009)
1 – Alex Ishchenko – T4th (1990)
1 – Matt Rendell – T9th (1992)

33 – Matthew Clarke
22 – Stefan Martin
12 – Mitch Clark
11 – Matthew Leuenberger
10 – Clark Keating

FINALS (min 5)
11 – Oscar McInerney
11 – Clark Keating
8 – Matthew Clarke
7 – Beau McDonald
5 – Jamie Charman

POSSESSIONS (min 1000)
2321 – Stefan Martin (ave 17.5)
1487 – Oscar McInerney (ave10.7)
1374 – Matthew Clarke (ave 10.6)
1293 – Matthew Leuenberger (ave 12.0)
1244 – Jamie Charman (ave 9.6)
1113 – Mitch Clark (ave 13.6)
1016 – Clark Keating (ave 7.3)

GOALS (min 20)
83 – Clark Keating (ave 0.60)
61 – Mitch Clark (ave 0.74)
60 – Oscar McInerney (ave 0.43)
55 – Jame Charman (ave 0.43)
27 – Matthew Leuenberger (ave 0.25)
26 – Mark Mickan (ave 0.54)
23 – Stefan Martin (ave 0.17)

HIT-OUTS (min 1500)
3887 – Stefan Martin (ave 29.2)
3384 – Oscar McInerney (ave 24.4)
2472 – Matthew Leuenberger (ave 22.9)
2291 – Jamie Charman (ave 17.8)
2103 – Matthew Clarke (ave 16.2)
1915 – Clark Keating (ave 13.8)
1577 – Beau McDonald (ave 17.3)

845 – Oscar McInerney (2023)
770 – Stefan Martin (2017)
745 – Stefan Martin (2018)
724 – Matthew Leuenberger (2011)
672 – Oscar McInerney (2021)
650 – Stefan Martin (2015)
645 – Stefan Martin (2019)
608 – Matthew Leuenberger (2013)

63 – Stefan Martin (2010)
58 – Stefan Martin (2018)
57 – Oscar McInerney (2023)
52 – Stefan Martin (2017-19)
52 – Matthew Leuenberger (2011)
51 – Stefan Martin (2016 twice)
51 – Matthew Leuenberger (2015)
50 – Stefan Martin (2015-17-18)