It’s been an interesting journey for 23 year old Irishman Colin O’Riordan, coming from a Catholic household in the Irish countryside with Gaelic football running through his veins.
Following in the footsteps of his champion Gaelic Football playing father (Michael), O’Riordan would achieve this same goal in 2014 when he made his senior debut for Tipperary and immediately becoming a regular at senior level and racking up numerous awards.
His career trajectory was set as a professional Gaelic player.
It wasn’t until an AFL Europe draft combine caught his attention that he found out about Aussies Rules and it didn’t take long for him to be hooked on the game.
“I went over to London to play an exhibition game for AFL Europe against the AIS boys from Australia and while only playing for 40-45 minutes I was interested in the game and intrigued by a possible pathway to the AFL.” O’Riordan told AFL Europe.
After impressing at the combines in Europe, O’Riordan would attract the attention of three AFL clubs in St Kilda, Essendon and Sydney, with the decision made very easy by the effort the Swans made in their recruiting pitch.
“I just loved Sydney, they flew me up to training at their Academy where I had a few kicks the footy and ever since then I decided that if I got offered a contract that’s 100% where I’d want to be.”
He would eventually be picked up in October 2015 by the Swans with an international rookie contract, showing how quickly he had impressed recruiters.
Sydney recruiting manger Kinnear Beatson was extremely happy to have secured the Irish talent, speaking glowingly of O’Riordan’s ability to grasp the game so quickly.
“What struck us most was how well he kicked the footy, he genuinely looks like an AFL footballer” Beatson said following the clubs signing of O’Riordan.
“He’s got great skills, takes the ball at the highest point when marking overhead, his work ethic and his competitiveness really shone out in the session he had with us.”
O’Riordan’s dedication would be a standout trait when he joined the club, as he remembers working hard to earn the respect of the group and get the best out of himself as an athlete.
“All you want to do is try to impress and that’s all I did, I just wanted to go as hard as I could for as long as I could and gain the respect of the playing group.”
This work ethic would see the young Irishman take dramatic strides, as he picked up the game quickly and slotted in beautifully to the Swans NEAFL set up.
Playing his first game in 2016, match notes suggested the Irishman did not look out of place from the beginning as he claimed 20 touches in just his second match at the level.
Despite being very new to the game, O’Riordan was never content at state level, with his eyes firmly set on the AFL from the beginning.
“You don’t really want to play NEAFL and that’s the reality, you come over with your head set to play AFL and for me that’s all I really wanted.”
Spending two years honing his craft at state level, O’Riordan would begin to truly breakout in 2018 where he averaged an astounding 28.9 disposals and 8.6 marks a game to put himself in the frame for senior selection.
After a string of dominant performances in the NEAFL, O’Riordan would finally get his chance to play senior football in round 17 of 2018 when the Swans travelled to Docklands Stadium to face North Melbourne.
It’s a day Colin says he will never forget. “It was what I always wanted.” He said. “Being able to get my Mum and Dad over to watch the game made it even more special, and to win the way we did, I just wanted more.”
He would play two more matches in 2018, showing glimpses of a promising future at the highest level.
With three pre seasons under his belt, 2019 was the year O’Riordan looked to make his mark.
“It’s been a progressive year.” He said reflecting on 2019.
“[Playing senior footy] is obviously what I came to do and I’ve learned a lot more this year than any year.”
This growth saw him able to string together 11 straight games through the middle of the year before being struck down with a groin injury two weeks ago.
Throughout his 12 games, O’Riordan averaged 14.1 disposals and 4.3 marks across half back and the wing whilst looking more and more confident at the level each week. Despite his success this year, the Irishman is far from satisfied.
“I’m happy but not really content with where I’m at. I’m not sure I’ll ever be content with where I am, it is a step in the right direction.”
As for the team as a whole, the Swans have been the youngest team in the competition on numerous occasions this year which is something O’Riordan is super excited about moving forward.
“We still want to progress and we are annoyed with aspects of this year, however it’s been pretty special to be a part of a group with a real sense of camaraderie and belonging.” He told AFL Europe.
“It’s exciting times for sure.”
At the end the day though for Colin O’Riordan it’s all about going out there and giving his all.
“You have to have confidence in your own ability that you can beat [anyone].” He said of the jump to the AFL.
“You can really just focus on yourself, get your body right, and when it comes to the weekend have an absolute crack.”
Zac Standish – AFL Europe