Western Jets midfielder Xavier O’Halloran is one of the most natural leaders among TAC Cup prospects for the NAB AFL Draft on November 22-23.
The 18-year-old St Bernard’s (Western Region FL) product skippered Western in the TAC Cup as well as Vic Metro at the AFL U18 Championships this year, leading the Jets to their highest position following a home-and-away season since 2014 (sixth) and Metro to a runner-up finish at the national carnival.
On an individual level, 187cm O’Halloran averaged 19 disposals and five tackles per game in his 13 TAC Cup matches, finishing equal-sixth in Morrish Medal voting and earning TAC Cup Team of the Year selection.
However, he arguably announced himself more clearly to the football world in 2018 as a leader.
“Leadership has probably been a trend throughout my junior career,” O’Halloran said at the recent AFL Draft Combine, where he finished in the top 10 of a host of tests – including second in the agility test. “I’ve really enjoyed having that added responsibility.
“I think I’m quite vocal (in style) – especially on-field, but off-field as well. I’d like to see myself as a supportive leader of my teammates and people around the club, whether it’s just sending a text message if they’ve had a bad game or they’re injured or if they come up to me and just want to have a chat. I try to open myself up as much as possible to be a source they can use to get things off their chest.
“It (Vic Metro captaincy) was a huge honour; I was actually quite surprised when it was announced. Having that leadership role at the Jets was something I looked towards at Metro, to continue that sort of leadership. I embraced the challenge and had a lot of fun at the same time.”
O’Halloran also used his four appearances at the U18 Championships to spend more time playing in the forward line – “I thought I was able to show a different side to my game” – and focused on developing his kicking throughout the season.
A top-10 finish in the Combine kicking test would demonstrate the improvement in his foot skills, with O’Halloran crediting his own hard work as well as the work of those he leads.
“I focused on my kicking in the back-end of last season and then through to this season – just working on different types of kicks, whether it’s a weighted kick or low flat kicks,” he said. “I think I’m now able to change up different styles of kicks and understand which type of kick is needed in which situation.
“I’ve learnt that if you really want something then you have to truly work your hardest for it, and that the support you get along the way is substantial. It was fantastic to know that coaches, the staff and my teammates were behind me and had my back.”
THE AFL DRAFT WATCH ‘FAST FIVE’ with Xavier O’Halloran
Why should an AFL club draft you?
“I’m really hard-working and a competitive kid. I think I revolve my game heavily around the team and believe that I’m willing to work hard for whatever lies ahead.”
What is the funniest or weirdest question you’ve been asked by an AFL club?
“I was once asked my thoughts on Kim Jong-Un. That was a bit of a hairy one and I got through it, just.”
Who is your football idol?
“Joel Selwood (Geelong). (I like) the way he leads his team and does everything possible to get his team across the line. He’s hard at the ball and not afraid to put his body on the line.”
Who will be selected with pick no.1 in the 2018 AFL Draft?
“Sam Walsh (Geelong Falcons). He’s an extremely hard worker, he’s a fantastic player and finds the ball really easily and disposes of it fantastically as well.”
Which of your 2018 teammates should also be in draft consideration?
“Zac Butters (Western Jets) and Lachie Sholl (Vic Metro/Calder Cannons).”