Rocky boy Paul O'Shea the big bolter in AFL draft

Rockhampton teenager Paul O'Shea has completed an extraordinary football fairytale with selection by the Western Bulldogs in the AFL National Draft.

O'Shea, unknown by most recruiting scouts Australia wide, was the bolter of the draft when claimed by the Dogs at selection No.76 after playing two-thirds of a season with battling AFLQ club Redland.

Sitting watching the draft via the Internet in Brisbane with some friends and Redland officials, the 17-year-old was struck by emotion when his name was called out by Bulldogs recruiting manager Scott Clayton.

He buried his head in the shoulder of girlfriend Amy Mueller, sister of Redland teammate and draft hopeful Adam Mueller, and cried.

I still can't believe it," he said a short time later. "Twelve months ago I was going to give football away and now I'm in the AFL ... incredible!"

Indeed it is. This time last year he was playing cricket in Rockhampton after a football season of divided loyalties. He played junior rugby league on Friday nights and backed up to play two games of AFL with the Brothers club on Saturdays - first in the U17s and later in the seniors.

I was thinking about giving the footy away ... I'm bloody glad I didn't," he said.

O'Shea's first phone call after he was drafted was to his father John, a Rockhampton electrician.

"He just said `congratulations - enjoy the day - I'm going to have a beer'. I don't think he could believe it either," said O'Shea, whose selection capped a double celebration for the Bombers after midfielder Brad Howard was chosen by St.Kilda at No.27.

Clayton, widely regarded as the best judge of young talent in the competition, said he'd chosen O'Shea, a former standout junior athlete, on his athletic potential.

"He's a blank canvas that we think we can develop," Clayton said. "He's very raw but his athleticism is exceptional and he's got a lot of untapped potential. He's lightning quick, a huge leap, is strong, courageous and hard at it, and he's going to end up a fantastic specimen."

Clayton, former recruiting manager with the Brisbane Lions and given much of the credit for their triple premiership success of 2001-02-03, revealed he'd tracked O'Shea since spotting him at the Australia Post Queensland U18 State Championships in March.

"We watched him play a few times and watched the tapes and we liked what we saw. He'll probably start in defence .. that's not to say he's not a forward - he might well end up there ... but he's got the attributes to fill the sort of roles we're looking for."

And they are not just footballing attributes. O'Shea won an Australian primary schools long jump title as a 10-year-old and in 2004 was second in the Queensland schools triple jump. He also represented Central Queensland as a cricketing all-rounder.

Not 18 until next April and eligible to play next year for the Australia Post Queensland U18 side, O'Shea is the youngest of three sporting sons to John and Janet O'Shea, from Gracemere in Rockhampton.

Emerald-based Chris, 26, is a former Central Queensland cricket representative who was once in a Queensland Emerging Players squad with Test all-rounder Shane Watson, and Andrew, 23, is a Central Queensland baseball representative.

Paul O'Shea didn't take up AFL football until his grade 8 year at school. He played with Brothers in the U13s on the recommendation of a grade 7 P.E.teacher.

He represented Capricornia U14s the following year in two local inter-league games, and in 2005 was chosen in the Australia Post Country Kookaburras for the State U16 Championships in Brisbane but fell sick two days before the carnival and missed out.

He won his club U17 B&F last year and was 3rd in the League medal, but the turning point was his performance for the Kookaburras in the Australia Post State U18 Championships this year, where he caught Clayton's eye.

Even O'Shea, a quietly-spoken, unassuming young man, was pleased. "It was probably the best three games I've ever strung together," he said, admitting he contemplated giving football away to return to athletics this year.

His effort at the U18 carnival earned him a game as a top-up player with the Suncoast Lions, the reserves side of the Brisbane Lions, in the first round of the AFLQ State League competition, when he played against Labrador at the Gabba.

A Redland scout liked what he saw and invited him back the following week. He also played with Suncoast Lions in round 4, and although he missed State U18 selection after playing in one of the early trial games he'd seen enough of the State League competition to decide it was worth persisting with.

So, he accepted a Redland offer to move to Brisbane for the rest of the season and played the last 12 games of the year, collecting three Grogan Medal votes in the last game of the year while boarding with Redland coach and ex-St.Kilda player Gary Odgers.

O'Shea's draft selection today is the second time this year he's attracted the national spotlight, although the first was one he's happy to forget.

It was in his AFLQ debut at the Gabba. Set to take a clearing kick from deep in defence for the Suncoast Lions, he heard a player call for the ball running behind him. He gave it to him and was horrified when he noticed it was an opposition player who ran in to an unattended goal.

"I was so embarrassed - especially when it ended up in the final of `Almost Footy Legends' on the Channel 9 Footy Show in Melbourne," he said.


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