If we look back to pre-season in 2012, Jaegar O’Meara was hyped up as one of the brightest talents coming through the ranks. The then 17-year-old was unable to partake in the regular season and was resigned to strutting his stuff in the NAB Cup.
The hype amongst media types was furthered after the pre-season competition; he had all of the footy world buzzing with his sublime skills. If we fast track to just 12 months later, somehow the super talent that is O’Meara has hardly been talked about in any great detail.
O’Meara was recruited by the Suns in the 2011 mini-draft, a special draft designed to help both Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney through the recruitment of players as 17-year-olds rather than the usual age of 18. He was plucked from the rigours of the WAFL but was ineligible to play throughout the 2012 season.
After his NAB Cup campaign, O’Meara spent the season in the NEAFL, a league that covers north-eastern Australia. He starred in a competition clearly inferior to his ability but his season was cut short in July as he underwent groin surgery.
An often shy and softly spoken player, O’Meara distanced himself from the hype has surrounded him for most of his junior days.
“That’s all external pressure. At the moment I’m just taking each day as it comes and working on what I need to work on,” he said.
Despite the fact that O’Meara is in a unique situation that prevents him from playing senior footy despite being contracted to a club, he used that to his advantage. He has had extra time in the gym to bulk up his relatively small frame.
Gary Ablett, a player that many have compared him to, added to the hype by stating that he is a possible future captain of the boys from the glitter strip.
“He has got a lot of talent, he is a very hard worker and leads by example,” Ablett said.
“As soon as he gets the confidence and starts speaking up a bit more he could be the future captain of our football club.”
The Suns have often been criticised for not having enough grunt in midfield, a feature than Kevin Sheedy has been able to instil in his players despite the Giants being just a year old.
Gold Coast was more often than not smashed in the clearances last year, a key statics when analysing a club’s midfield. Gary Ablett was the only player within the top 50 when it came to total clearances with Harley Bennell in second place at the club place in 64th spot overall. The combination of O’Meara and Steven May, a young midfielder that has become fitter over the pre-season, may be the answer to Suns’ clearance woes.
O’Meara was a clearance king in the WAFL and has the capacity to extend that form in AFL level. As well as helping out the midfield, he can also be a prolific goalkicker. On his WAFL debut for Perth, he kicked a whopping four goals.
If we take a look at the Suns’ goalkickers last year, the bulk of their goals came from their midfield engine. Whilst Ablett kicked 26, Bennell also managed to score 25. The next best was Campbell Brown with 22.
It is becoming more common in the modern era of footy for midfielders to be placed in the forward half of the field as a ‘resting’ target instead of taking a break on the bench. Midfielders are going to need to adapt even further when the highly contentious interchange caps come into effect in 2014.
What O’Meara brings to the table is exquisite skills in midfield but can also be a prolific forward target. He may only add 10 to 15 goals in 2013 but that may be the difference between the Suns improving on last year or ultimately stagnating.
The AFL world got a taste of Jaegar O’Meara and his unique talents last season but for one reason or another, the hype has died down quite significantly since then. He is on the verge of making his debut in Suns colours but the media has failed to match the coverage they gave him last season.
For the softly-spoken youngster, the lack of expectation as he pushes for selection in Round 1 may just be the tonic for him to thrive throughout the year. He is one of the brightest young stars that will grace any footy field all year and should flourish in an environment built around the development of youth.
Gold Coast has been criticised by many for declining in form last year after a solid opening season. With the addition of O’Meara, amongst other young stars with another pre-season under their belt, it may just be the season that things start heading in a positive direction.
Despite the lack of hype, O’Meara is expected to have a blistering start to life at AFL level. Maybe then the hype will ramp up as those who have turned a blind eye to him finally realise the immerse talent that he possesses.