AFL U19s Player Focus: Blayne O’Loughlin (South Australia)
SPEEDY North Adelaide rebounder Blayne O’Loughlin was adjudged his state’s best player in Saturday’s AFL Under 19 championships clash against Western Australia, providing plenty of dash and drive out of defence. The North Adelaide product is one on the radar of Adelaide fans, having come through the Crows’ Next Generation Academy (NGA) and thus being tied to the club. In the weekend’s AFL Grand Final curtain-raiser, O’Loughlin collected 22 disposals and did his draft chances no harm. He comes from good pedigree too, as the nephew of Sydney champion, Michael O’Loughlin. We put the South Australian’s performance under the Player Focus microscope this week, breaking down his game quarter-by-quarter.
Blayne O’Loughlin North Adelaide/South Australia
DOB: 11/01/2003 Height/Weight: 171cm/74kg Position: Small Defender
Strengths: Rebounding, work rate, accumulation
Under 18s: 13 games | 28.5 disposals | 4.0 marks | 2.8 tackles | 1.7 clearances | 2.6 inside 50s | 5.5 rebound 50s Reserves: 3 games | 14.3 disposals | 2.3 marks | 3.3 tackles | 0.7 clearances | 0.3 inside 50s | 1.3 rebound 50s
2021 AFL U19 National Championships | Western Australia 8.11 (59) def. South Australia 8.6 (54)
#2 Blayne O’Loughlin (South Australia)
O’Loughlin had an incredibly busy start to the game, immediately stamping himself as one of the more prolific ball winners in his usual defensive post. While there were plenty of dangerous WA small forwards to monitor, the North Adelaide prospect often used attack as the best form of defence. He positioned well behind the ball and at the back of stoppages, looking to be released before getting his kicking game going. O’Loughlin was mostly neat with each possession, hitting high percentage short options to instigate SA’s rebounding play. He bit off a couple of riskier kicks too, taking the kick-ins and hitting Lewis Rayson down the middle with pin-point accuracy. Another great kick came after O’Loughlin intercepted inside defensive 50, before pinging the ball out to the wing with a pure hit. One of O’Loughlin’s best moments came early on too, as h hunted down WA tall Luke Polson in a holding-the-ball tackle. In an outstanding period of play, the diminutive defender was credited with nine disposals – nearly half of his total for the day (22).
After contributing plenty across the opening quarter, O’Loughlin had a little less to do in term two as South Australia began to gain territory and opened its scoring account. With WA only scoring one behind, he didn’t get any kick-in opportunities either. The North Adelaide talent ended up notching another three kicks for the term, proving effective with each. Two of them came from deep inside SA’s defensive 50, with one sent short across goal and the other rebounded long down the line to a contest. O’Loughlin’s third disposal saw him roam further afield as an inboard option through the corridor. Once used, he kept the play moving with a kick out to the wing which helped his side continue to stretch the ground in transition. Though there was not as much to do on the ball, O’Loughlin still asked questions of his direct opponents with strong body and pressure as the ball spilled to ground level, competing well until the half time break.
South Australia remained in the hunt despite added pressure in term three, with O’Loughlin back in business both on the last line of defence, and further afield. His two kick-ins for the term were taken short, with WA setting up relatively well in attacking 50. Aside from the two kick-ins, O’Loughlin added four more touches to his tally, and two came within seconds of each other as he pounced on a defensive 50 spill and looked to get some pace on the ball going forward. O’Loughlin got his hands on the ball out the back of another spill close to his own goal, but looked more expansive when using the ball off half-back. On one instance, he received the ball in the defensive corridor, before quickly hitting a kick further down the guts to assist a Harvey Harrison score.
Bookending his game well, O’Loughlin finished strongly with another six touches to showcase his endless work rate. He continued to put speed on the ball when receiving by hand, getting his legs pumping and sensing the urgency required to win, going mostly by foot. He opted for much longer kicks, moving SA from defensive 50 to the halfway line, and from the corridor to the wing in attempts to aid avenues to goal. His high position on the press helped the Croweaters pour on pressure, though they ultimately fell short of a win.
Featured Image: Blayne O’Loughlin was adjudged SA’s best afield | Credit: AFL Photos