The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter O

The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter O

The ‘O’ team doesn’t have much out-and-out star power, but can boast plenty of consistency across the board.

Back line

Max Oppy (Richmond 1942-54) 185 games, 29 goals Max Oppy was one of the toughest players to set foot on a field for Richmond, referred to by Jack Dyer as “The player who could not be hurt”. His first years were spent as a rover, before he moved to the back pocket and became one of the finest exponents of the position in the league, finishing as the runner up in 1953’s best and fairest count.

He played in the 1943 premiership, excellently curbing the influence of Dick Reynolds, and represented Victoria on four occasions. After retiring, he returned to Richmond for an unsuccessful season as coach in 1956.

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The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter N

AFL

Stephen O’Reilly (Geelong 1993-94, Fremantle 1995-99, Carlton 2000) 146 games, 21 goals

Across three teams, Stephen O’Reilly was a capable defender and occasional forward, starring for Western Australia in a 1992 State of Origin match before shifting across to Geelong. There, he was one of the Cats’ best in the losing 1994 grand final before returning to be part of Fremantle’s inaugural squad.

O’Reilly won Fremantle’s best and fairest in 1996 and regularly represented Western Australia in State of Origin, before a severe hamstring injury in 1997 limited his effectiveness. Carlton recruited him with a view to replacing Steve Silvagni, but it didn’t pan out and O’Reilly retired at the conclusion of the 2000 season.

Kevin O’Neill (Richmond 1930-41) 209 games, 12 goals

The predecessor to Max Oppy in the back pocket, Kevin O’Neill featured in one of the strongest backlines in Richmond’s history alongside Martin Bolger and Maurie Sheahan. He played in the 1932 and 1934 premierships, and was considered Richmond’s best in the losing 1933 effort. Renowned for his consistency and confidence, O’Neill played for Victoria ten times, and was awarded life membership of the Tigers in 1939.

During his career, he noticed he rarely received feedback from coach ‘Checker’ Hughes, so he sought it out – Hughes told him that if he was talking to a player that player wasn’t doing their job well, indicating that O’Neill was held in high esteem by himself and the match committee. After serving in the RAAF during World War II, O’Neill returned to the club in 1944 as Reserves captain-coach for a season.

Half back line

Jim O’Dea (St Kilda 1967-80) 167 games, 7 goals Over a career of 14 seasons, Jim O’Dea was generally a solid but unspectacular defender for St Kilda, capable of nullifying an opponent on the flanks. But he is now remembered most for one moment of madness in 1972 when he knocked out Collingwood’s John Greening, who had been an up-and-coming star of the league.

O’Dea’s name was mud among Collingwood fans, and the opprobrium was such that in 1977 he transferred to Dandenong in the VFA in an attempt to shield himself from public life somewhat. He returned to St Kilda for three more seasons, and would coach the under-19s squad following his playing career.

Paddy O’Brien (Carlton 1913-25, Footscray 1925-26) 182 games, 7 goals

Paddy O’Brien was one of the most physical defenders in a physical era of football. Having starred in the VFA, Carlton knocked on his door and he began his career as a ruckman – being named as best afield or close to it in the Blues’ 1914 and 1915 premierships. He then shifted to centre half-back, where he truly shined, giving back as good as he got physically.

He served as Carlton’s captain intermittently, before departing in 1925 over friction between his role as player-coach and Maurie Beasy’s as captain. Two seasons at Footscray followed before O’Brien hung up the boots. One incident from a match against Collingwood bears mention – after knocking over Gordon Coventry, he told the Magpie as he left the field, “well Nuts, you won’t get a toothache where they were!”

Daryl O’Brien (North Melbourne 1960-69) 135 games, 8 goals

In 1960, Daryl O’Brien played a handful of ineffectual games on the half-forward flank for North Melbourne. The Kangaroos dropped him to the reserves for the rest of that year and 1961, following which he asked for a clearance to Footscray.

North reconsidered, and trialled him on a back flank, where he became known as one of the most determined and effective taggers in the league. In 1964, O’Brien finished as runner up in the club’s best and fairest award, and he was selected as part of the 1968 “Galahs” side – a precursor to the International Rules series. After his VFL career ended, he moved to Brunswick in the VFA.

Centre line

Lance Oswald (St Kilda 1957-63) 107 games, 104 goals

St Kilda knew they had a star in Lance Oswald, and grappled with Wangaratta for clearance. He played one game in 1957 before being released to the Saints the following year, and almost immediately started to redefine the centreman position. Previously, the centreman would stay near the midfield – but Oswald was noted for his free-roaming approach, being seen anywhere on the field hunting the ball.

In 1960 and 1961 he won St Kilda’s best and fairest award, and was instrumental in the Saints’ comeback in their first final for 22 years in the latter year. After the 1963 season, when Ian Stewart had arrived and made the centreman position his own, Oswald departed for Strathmerton and was later named on the wing in St Kilda’s team of the century.

Gary O’Donnell (Essendon 1987-98) 243 games, 88 goals

Gary O’Donnell was first on Essendon’s list in 1983, but through persistence and regular good play in the reserves, he forced his way into the side from 1987. Becoming a consistent presence in Essendon’s midfield, O’Donnell could run free and manage high possession totals or tag an opposing star with equal effectiveness.

His quality was underlined by his presence in the top three of Essendon’s best and fairest award in six straight seasons, finally breaking through for a win in the premiership year of 1993. He captained Essendon in 1996 and 1997, before retiring and taking up a role with Brisbane and being instrumental in their threepeat of premierships.

Ryan O’Keefe (Sydney 2000-14) 286 games, 261 goals

A dashing half-forward with a laser-like left foot, Ryan O’Keefe’s career started slowly before blossoming in 2004. Focussing more on fitness, he developed into a hard runner who could take stints in the midfield if necessary and played in the Swans’ 2005 flag. In 2006, O’Keefe was named as All Australian and finished second in the club best and fairest for the first of two straight seasons.

From 2009, he moved more into the midfield as a rule, and won the best and fairest that year. His zenith came in 2012 when he played in a second premiership and won the Norm Smith Medal. In 2014, O’Keefe retired when it became clear the club was looking towards the future.

Ruck line

Arthur Olliver (Footscray 1935-50) 272 games, 354 goals

Arthur Olliver was one of the first great names in Footscray’s VFL history. A long-serving ruckman whose first seasons were spent at full-forward, Olliver was capable of rucking all day and was skilled enough to win the club’s best and fairest on two occasions.

As captain-coach for seven seasons spanning 1943 to 1950 (missing 1947), Olliver led the Bulldogs to the finals four times and just missed out on two other occasions. He led the club’s goalkicking three times and represented Victoria on two occasions. Olliver was named on the interchange bench of Footscray’s team of the century.

Percy Ogden (Collingwood 1905, Essendon 1910-15, 1918-21) 165 games, 91 goals

After four games with Collingwood, Percy Ogden was dropped heading into the 1905 grand final. Chastened, he spent four years with Preston in the VFA before returning to the VFL with Essendon. There he developed into a courageous and long-kicking rover with a knack for getting the ball away before any tackler could lay a hand on him.

In 1911, he affected some small measure of revenge on Collingwood by defeating them in the grand final, and he backed it up with another flag in 1912. Ogden was a regular representative in Victorian colours, captaining the state in 1920. When Essendon disbanded for WWI, Ogden returned to Preston before returning to serve as captain-coach in his last two years.

Shane O’Bree (Brisbane 1998-99, Collingwood 2000-10) 246 games, 87 goals

Shane O’Bree was a highly-touted junior footballer, spending two years with Brisbane as a flanker at either end of the ground before returning home to Victoria with Collingwood. Immediately, he stepped into the midfield as a key mover for the Magpies, tallying almost 500 disposals and finishing fifth in the best and fairest. O’Bree played in both the 2002 and 2003 grand finals before a knee injury interrupted his career the following year.

From 2005 until 2010, he was a solid part of the Collingwood squad and was twice named best clubman. He retired as his spot in the team was being supplanted by younger players coming through, and as such missed out on the premiership that year.

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Half forward line

Dally O’Brien (North Melbourne 1938-49) 137 games, 63 goals

A talented and tough utility befitting the time, Dally O’Brien was capable of playing anywhere on the field and running all day. He captained North Melbourne in 1944 and 1945, leading the club to its first finals campaign, and won the best and fairest in 1948.

O’Brien was profoundly deaf, which helped him on occasion (replying to some Jack Dyer invective with “Why yes, it is a nice day, Jack”) and hurt him otherwise (being bluffed by Bob Chitty at a coin toss so that Carlton could kick with a gale in the first quarter). His final game was the Round 1 match against Collingwood in 1949, bowing out with two goals.

Brad Ottens (Richmond 1998-2004, Geelong 2005-11) 245 games, 261 goals

Equally at home in the ruck or as a mobile marking option up forward, Brad Ottens developed nicely with Richmond as they progressed to the preliminary final in 2001, being named All Australian that year. Unfortunately, the next few years were interspersed with injury, and he was traded to Geelong with a view to team success.

Ottens took the mark of the year in 2006, and was seen as best afield in the 2007 preliminary final, ensuring Geelong would make it to the grand final and their first premiership in 44 years. Ottens was instrumental in the victory, and despite struggling with injury in 2009, made it two flags in three years before retiring after the 2011 premiership.

John O’Neill (Geelong 1954-62) 136 games, 20 goals

John O’Neill was a skilful and pacy wingman and half-forward for Geelong, with a knack for knowing where the ball would be and gathering it accordingly. Best known for his pace and disposal, he represented Victoria on four occasions and won the club’s best and fairest award in 1958. This was achieved despite O’Neill missing five games with a broken wrist. He captained Geelong in five matches, and became an assistant coach of the side upon retirement.

Forward line

Michael O’Loughlin (Sydney 1995-2009) 303 games, 521 goals

Michael O’Loughlin had devastating skill in the forward line, with the ability to weave his way around opponents like they were standing still and deliver lace out to the forward line or go for goal himself. He started his career slowly, but developed such that he took part in the 1996 grand final and won Sydney’s best and fairest in 1998.

By the mid-2000s, O’Loughlin had led Sydney’s goalkicking twice and been named All Australian twice, before winning a premiership in 2005. He continued to play consistent football, missing out on a second straight premiership when Sydney was defeated by West Coast by one point, before retiring as Sydney’s games record holder. O’Loughlin was named at full-forward in the Indigenous team of the century.

Richard Osborne (Fitzroy 1982-92, Sydney 1993, Footscray 1994-96, Collingwood 1997-98) 283 games, 574 goals

As an understudy to Bernie Quinlan, Richard Osborne developed well into the full-forward role, leading the Lions’ goalkicking on five occasions. With strong hands and a reliable kick, he finished second in the best and fairest in 1984, and captained Fitzroy in 1991.

The next year, Osborne asked to leave Fitzroy, and Sydney picked him up for a season – where he was instrumental in the only victory the Swans would have that season, kicking ten goals in a defeat of Melbourne. He went on to Footscray, where he led the goalkicking again in 1995, and signed off with two years at Collingwood in an unfamiliar half-back role. After retiring, Osborne spent time as a Channel Seven boundary rider.

Craig O’Brien (Essendon 1989-91, St Kilda 1993-95, Sydney 1996-2000) 114 games, 191 goals

Craig O’Brien was a tough and straightforward small forward who could spend time in the midfield when required. Starting his career at Essendon, he struggled to find a spot before moving to St Kilda, where he formed an effective double team with Tony Lockett, kicking over 30 goals in each of his seasons there.

After being traded to Sydney, O’Brien started to struggle with injury, but was still capable of big bags, kicking five goals or more in a game on five occasions with the Swans. He was appointed coach of Broadbeach Cats in the QAFL in February this year, having spent most of his post-AFL career with teams on the Gold Coast.

Interchange

Andrew Obst (Melbourne 1990-97) 149 games, 60 goals

After being drafted in 1987, Andrew Obst spent two years remaining with Port Adelaide in the SANFL before making the move to the Demons. In the early 1990s, he was notable as a player who could rack up gaudy numbers of possessions and was unafraid to get his hands dirty.

His best year was 1996 when he finished third in the club best and fairest, but the following year his form fell away and he departed one game short of a milestone 150. Obst finished his career with two more years at Port in the SANFL, winning consecutive flags before retiring.

Michael Osborne (Hawthorn 2001-13) 168 games, 110 goals

Osborne was drafted as a rookie, and played only three games in his first two seasons. Come 2003, he started to develop into a reliable defender, being rewarded with a rising star nomination in Round 6. For most of his career, Osborne was a versatile and underrated part of the Hawthorn setup, finishing fifth in the club’s best and fairest in the premiership year of 2008.

In 2012, he ruptured his ACL, and was redrafted onto the rookie list at the end of that year. Retiring in 2013, Osborne signed off with a premiership with Box Hill in the VFL to go with his 2001 win – the only player to have played in both Box Hill flags.

Tom O’Halloran (Richmond 1925-34) 142 games, 120 goals

In his first season with Richmond, O’Halloran won the club’s best and fairest award. He played as a ruckman and occasionally as a forward, noted for his strong marking ability and limitless determination. O’Halloran played in four losing grand finals before breaking through in 1932 to be named one of the best in the flag win, repeating the effort in 1934 to close his career.

He represented Victoria twice, and captain-coached Camberwell in the VFA after his Richmond career ended. O’Halloran coached Richmond’s reserves in 1935, and later served as club vice president. He was inducted into Richmond’s Hall of Fame in 2013.

David O’Halloran (Hawthorn 1976-85) 160 games, 19 goals

Tom O’Halloran’s nephew was David O’Halloran, who served Hawthorn with distinction over a decade through the 1970s and 80s. In his first year, he played every game, winning a premiership on the half-back flank and being named as Hawthorn’s best first-year player. For the next decade, he continued as a confident and assured defender, representing Victoria twice and winning a second premiership in 1983.

O’Halloran was unlucky to miss the 1978 flag after being injured in the semi-final, having played all matches that year to that point. After spending 1985 in the reserves, he was called up to the senior team for the grand final – a direct reverse of his 1978 experience. After losing his second straight grand final to Essendon, O’Halloran retired.

Emergencies

Tony Ongarello (Fitzroy 1952-60) 131 games, 247 goals

The crowd laughed and hooted as Tony Ongarello lined up for goal against Geelong in 1955. No matter – the Fitzroy forward booted it long, straight and true. And with that, Ongarello became the last player to use the place kick in VFL history – having resorted to the measure after struggling with the punt kick earlier in the game.

Although these few moments define his career, he was a useful spearhead for Fitzroy throughout the 1950s, three times leading the club’s goalkicking. After retiring, Ongarello was a regular on ABC football panels for the next two decades.

Billy Orchard (Geelong 1906-15) 112 games, 67 goals

Billy Orchard was a skilful footballer for Geelong in the early part of last century, able to play in any position on the ground, but most comfortable in midfield. After one game in 1906, he waited two years for a second chance and didn’t let it slip – being promoted to captain in 1914 and captain-coach in 1915. After this, Orchard enlisted in the First AIF and was awarded the Military Cross in 1918.

Gordon Ogden (Melbourne 1928-37) 134 games, 3 goals

Part of a footballing family, Gordon Ogden was the son of Percy Ogden and represented Melbourne with distinction in a back pocket over ten years. Quick off the mark and courageous when fighting for the ball, Ogden represented Victoria five times and developed a reputation as one of the best back pocket players in the league.

After his career at Melbourne ended, he went to Williamstown and led the club to a VFA flag in 1939, eventually returning as Melbourne Reserves coach from 1963-65.

Up next is the ‘P’ team, with two of the most spectacular marking players of all-time at either end of the field and an abundance of hair in the middle.