Main content
180335_Website_Branding_Bar_v4png

McInerney journey to the Lions

Oscar McInerney's emergence as a match-turner for the Brisbane Lions has seemed to come in a rush. But the big Lion's story, and how Brisbane first came to find him, requires a deeper dig. 

McInerney has been pivotal in the Lions' past two wins, with a game-changing patch against the Kangaroos in round two before he kicked a goal deep in the last quarter against Port Adelaide on Saturday night to put his side ahead.  

The 'Big O's' big impact has caught attention but it's a long way from when the Lions first started watching McInerney, when he was playing for the Casey Demons' VFL development league team in 2016. 

McInerney, then 21 years old, played one game early in the VFL season for Casey's senior side before being dropped back to the development league, where he started to hit form.

Casey's then football operations manager Jack Henty told Lions recruiter Andrew Farrell to keep an eye on the improving tall prospect, and so the Lions recruiters went to watch McInerney play. 

They saw enough to keep interested, and got a scout to each of his games even though McInerney did not break back into the Casey senior side until round 18 that year.

They had to log and edit his weekly highlights, as statistics provider Champion Data didn't code each player packages for that level, and even dug up more vision off YouTube of McInerney playing for local club Montrose in Victoria's Eastern Football league. The more they watched, the more they liked.

"His development stuck out. From what we saw at Montrose to what we saw at the development league to what we saw at senior level, the improvement was vast," said Lions recruiting manager Stephen Conole. 

McInerney ended up winning the competition's best and fairest in the development league despite playing six senior games for Casey, but it was off the field when he continued to show the Lions he was worth a shot.  

They found that he had joined the ruck academy set up by former Adelaide, Bulldogs, Brisbane and Collingwood ruckman Ben Hudson before Hudson was appointed to the ruck coaching role at the Lions later that year. "It'd be ironic if I go to Brisbane, I'll be able to go and see 'Huddo' for free," McInerney told the Lions recruiters.

They also learned McInerney had chosen to play at Casey ahead of his more local option Box Hill after doing his research and seeing more opportunity in the ruck, even though it added an extra hour to his commute each night to training via Melbourne's public transport system.

"He'd also done his full accountancy course, so he was pretty settled and mature. All those things added up. He knew where he wanted to go," Conole said.

The Lions saw every Club overlook McInerney in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft before they grabbed him with pick 37 at the rookie draft.

McInerney didn't break into the Lions' senior side in his first season, but was named the Club's NEAFL player of the season, before managing 16 appearances last season.

View this post on Instagram

The Big-O gun show! #Uncaged

A post shared by Brisbane Lions (@brisbanelions) on

 

This season, his 2.1 in a five-minute flurry against North Melbourne turned the game his side's way, before last week's heroics. His contested marking in attack, plus movement up the field, has made the 205cm Lion a target when not in the ruck.

"He just seems to step up in those times when we've needed it. He's spending a few more minutes in the ruck now and when forward he's just such a dangerous match-up with his size and his reach. He's a really strong aerobic runner so he gets up and back and turns his defender around," Conole said.

McInerney, 24, is a part of a young breed of Lions that has helped steer the Club to its 3-0 opening to the year, its best start to a season since 2010.

Eric Hipwood, the star of Saturday night's win over Port with six goals, joined the club in 2015, Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Berry and Alex Witherden joined him the following season, and Cam Rayner and Zac Bailey are among the Lions' strong group of 2017 draftees. 

"They obviously get along really well off the field, and a little bit of on-field success is just what everyone is after," Conole said.

"As a footy Club we tried to prioritise a lot of the off-field areas, like the welfare side of things, and we certainly tried to target some kids who we thought would be suited to come up to Brisbane, both with the group we already had there and the group we wanted to take us forward."

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs