O’Meara in for ‘mini-draft’
Jaeger O’Meara’s performances for Western Australia at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships won him rave reviews from AFL recruiters and the level of interest in the precocious 17-year-old is set to skyrocket in the coming months.
O’Meara has nominated for consideration under the Greater Western Sydney trade incentive scheme that will allow him to join an AFL club later this year despite being too young to be included in the talent pool for the 2011 NAB AFL Draft.
AFL clubs will have the opportunity to offer draft picks, players or both for one of four special selections that can then be used on eligible players born between January and April, 1994, and the bidding process will be heated.
West Coast and Fremantle covet the elite skills of the speedy forward/midfielder, but several other clubs from outside O’Meara’s home state are seriously considering what, or perhaps more significantly ‘who’, they will be prepared to give up for the gifted game changer.
“We’ll see what happens. It would definitely be a great opportunity,” O’Meara says of his chance to get a head start on an AFL career.
“To make it to the AFL has been a dream of mine for a long time and if I do get there I’d really like to be able to share that with as many WA teammates as I can.
“That would be great.”
The winner of the bidding process will have the opportunity to select O’Meara at a ‘mini-draft’ on the final day of trade week (Monday, October 17). There’s no doubt O’Meara will pull on a team’s guernsey and smile for the cameras on that day, but there’s plenty of water to go under the bridge before then.
The eventual successful bidder will pay a high price for the first of the four special draft selections that GWS is treating like gold nuggets.
That’s sure to place a little extra pressure on O’Meara, who still won’t be able to play for his new club until 2013, but WA high performance coach Craig Starcevich says that won’t count for much as far as the laid-back lad from Dongara, near Geraldton, is concerned.
“I don’t think the attention that he’ll receive will be any big deal for him at all,” Starcevich says.
“He’s not the sort of kid who’s going to worry about that one way or another.
“They’re a terrific family, so his support network is outstanding. He’s a really level-headed kid and he’s got a quiet confidence about having a long AFL career.”
Starcevich likens O’Meara’s temperament to those of recent No.1 picks Tom Scully and David Swallow.
The parallel with Swallow is even more apt when you consider O’Meara will have the same opportunity to serve a one-year apprenticeship with an AFL club before stepping onto the big stage.
O’Meara’s preparation for the next phase of his life began earlier this year when he moved from Dongara to Perth to be closer to the WA high performance program and his WAFL club Perth.
“It was a bit hard in terms of my schooling because I had to miss out on a day and then catch up on the weekends,” he says of the seven-hour round trip he would make with his dad once a week to attend training.
O’Meara’s parents recognised what a big year 2011 would be for their son when he was included in the AIS AFL Academy’s annual intake in August last year.
The Academy program exposed O’Meara to elite coaching and training techniques and also saw him become firm friends with fellow WA star-in-waiting Stephen Coniglio, who is just two months older than O’Meara, but is eligible for the 2011 NAB AFL Draft where he is a likely top-three pick.
The centrepiece of the Academy program was a European tour that took in England, Italy and Turkey, where the squad attended the Anzac Day dawn service.
“Gallipoli was definitely the most eye-opening experience of my life,” O’Meara says.
“To be involved in an experience like that was amazing and something that I’ll reflect back on for the rest of my life.
“It was just an eerie feeling to be in the same surroundings as the Anzacs were and I gained a perspective of the sort of terrain they were fighting in. Being right there I could almost picture what they went through to a degree.
“It was something that really touched me.”
The significance of such an experience could easily have been lost on a lad of his tender years, but O’Meara’s reaction speaks volumes about the personal priorities and values he holds dear that have him well-placed to handle the very public roller coaster ride he’s about to embark on.
“I think it goes without saying that trying to be a good person is more important than being a good footballer,” he says.
“That’s just the way my parents have raised me.”
Players born between January 1 and April 30, 1994, have until 2pm on Monday August 1 to nominate for consideration under the Greater Western Sydney trade incentive scheme.