Draft Watch: Casey’s Oscar McInerney
Oscar McInerney had a goal for 2016 that he only just reached by playing in the Casey Scorpions’ Peter Jackson VFL Grand Final loss to Footscray.
The 203cm ruckman arrived at Casey Fields this year from Montrose in the Eastern Football League and aspired to break through for six senior VFL games. He cut it fine by only establishing himself in the minor premiership-winning team from the final round of the home-and-away season, but managed to achieve what he knew what would be an ambitious target with selection in the season’s decider.
It put the icing on the cake of a season in which 22-year-old McInerney won the A.Todd Medal for the best and fairest player in the Development League and impressed at least two AFL clubs enough to receive an invite to the recent Victorian State Combine.
He recorded a level 12.8 beep test and 3.31-second 20m sprint in Combine testing and was interviewed by elite-level clubs at Etihad Stadium little more than a year since plying his trade at local level.
McInerney couldn’t have imagined how quickly his plan to play at the highest level he could – implemented with the help of Montrose coach and former Hawthorn, Carlton and Williamstown player Brett Johnson – would take off.
“Midway through last year, I said to Brett that I want to give it (higher-level football) a red-hot crack,” McInerney said.
“‘Johnno’ was amazing. I couldn’t thank him enough for my development in two years of senior football at Montrose under his reign. He helped me sort out a plan and how to get there.
“He had the knowledge from 70 AFL games, set the standards for us and put in time with watching vision of games. He brought a professional environment to a local football club.”
McInerney’s form during 2015 saw him field calls from multiple VFL clubs wanting to secure his services. He chose to sign with the Scorpions because he thought their development program would give him the best opportunity of playing senior football.
“I was pretty realistic though; I knew it was going to be tough,” McInerney said.
“I looked at Melbourne’s list and they were pretty strong. You’ve sort of got to wait for your turn and then make sure you make it count. I probably set the goal of six VFL games at the start of the season and I knew that was going to be a pretty hard feat.
“I wanted to set my goals pretty high. That was probably one thing ‘Johnno’ drove at Montrose: You always play footy to get the best out of yourself, so why not have a crack at the best?”
McInerney played his first senior game in Round 3 against Williamstown’s four-time VFL Team of the Year ruckman Nick Meese before having to wait his turn in the Development League again.
In the meantime, he polled enough votes to claim the A.Todd Medal on VFL Best and Fairest night – an event McInerney said he was surprised he even received an invite to.
The reward for his patience was another senior berth in Round 18, when he seized an opportunity presented by an injury to Jake Spencer with 15 disposals, 27 hitouts, seven tackles and a goal in a win against Essendon.
That break-out game was followed by four more senior matches from Round 21 through to Casey’s Grand Final appearance, including an important two-goal cameo in a rematch with Meese and the Seagulls in the preliminary final.
“Jake Spencer and I were able to double-team him (Meese) effectively, hopefully run him around and burn his legs,” McInerney said.
“One of my strengths is my running power... and I definitely tried to out-run opponents this year. Especially against the big boys who couldn’t run but could out-muscle me, you just had to find a string to your bow that was different to them.
“(Senior coach) Justin Plapp and (Football Operations Manager) George Morgan sat down with me and highlighted bits of (Adelaide AFL ruckman) Sam Jacobs’ play that they liked, because he plays like a midfielder with his running power. Ruckmen now have to be able to pick the ball off the ground and play like that fourth on-baller.”
McInerney knows he still needs to work on his strength in ruck contests and reading of the play if he joins the elite-level ranks at the AFL Draft on November 25 or Rookie Draft on November 28.
But his achievements since deciding to give it a “red-hot crack” last year would indicate anything is possible if he runs hard enough toward his goals.