How three-hour train rides put ‘Big O’ on Lions radar
IT took Oscar McInerney just 12 hours of football and about 600 hours of train rides to convince the Lions to draft him.
The towering ruckman, who has become a Brisbane cult hero now known as "Big O", trod his own path to the AFL and it was his dogged determination to get there that won the Lions over.
McInerney did not play at all during the TAC Cup, the elite under age footy competition from which the majority of Victorian kids are drafted, because a growth spurt left him with debilitating back pain that ruled him out of all football.
When he came out the other side he was 205cm, had completed an accountancy degree and worked an array of jobs from delivering and setting up Christmas trees to shower screen installation.
He was also determined to make it to the big time - so he went looking for opportunities in the VFL.
The closest club was Hawthorn affiliate Box Hill but McInerney chose VFL club Casey because he did not want to be stuck behind AFL players who were guaranteed a game.
Given he did not own a car, he had also signed up for a three-hour return train ride to training from his home in suburban Croydon throughout a hot pre-season and a cold Melbourne winter.
Back then there was a VFL seconds competition, and he won the association's best and fairest award, but it took until the dying rounds to force his way into the seniors where he played the last four games, including the grand final.
Lions list manager Stephen Conole said Brisbane saw his potential in those four games and when it was doubled with a steely determination, he was a player wanted by the club.
"It was a little bit of both, the potential was there but it is also a story of perseverance and dedication,'' Conole said.
"You knew he had the work ethic to get off his bum and improve, and we saw that over that season, by the end he was in the seniors and playing very well.''
McInerney had a standout season last year for the Lions playing 16 games as a third tall forward, where his marking soon became a feature, and back-up to ruckman Stef Martin.
He lit up Marvel Stadium in last Sunday's win over the Kangaroos, dragging down three big marks and kicking 2.1 to turn the game on its head.
But it is Lions coach Chris Fagan's determination to equalise the time the duo spend in the ruck that has allowed 24-year-old McInerney to flourish.
"It is a great opportunity the coaches have given me to play a bit more in the ruck,'' McInerney said.
"But you have got to be able to apply that forward craft too because you can't be a liability and last year was a great opportunity for me to learn that forward craft.''