Brayden O'Hara | Player of the year settles into Tigerland

BRAYDEN O’Hara has wasted little time making an impact at Albury. The former SANFL star was tipped by most to take the Ovens and Murray by storm this year. It’s fair to say he’s done exactly that. O’Hara spoke to The Border Mail’s O and M writer JAKE BOURKE about his first year at Tigerland.

JAKE BOURKE: Brayden, congratulations on winning The Border Mail-Johnsons MME Player of the Year award in your first year at Albury. How have you found your first season of O and M footy?

BRAYDEN O’HARA: It’s been pretty good. It helps a lot when you’re in a successful side.

JB: The Tigers seem to have really turned a corner in recent weeks after disappointing performances against Lavington and Myrtleford. What was said after the Myrtleford game? The coaches certainly weren’t happy.

BO: We just needed to take a look at where we were at. A lot of the boys were probably playing more of an individual game and, like anyone, we play our best when we’re doing it as a team. We’ve responded really well and are playing team footy again at the time of year when you want to do it.

JB: Who has been your toughest opponent since joining the O and M and why?

BO: Probably somebody like Tyler Bonat from Yarra. I got a fair bit of attention from him last time we played. I shouldn’t say too much because they’ll probably put him straight on me again (laughs). But he was a good player. He’s a good runner and pretty athletic, which made it hard.

JB: What’s different between SANFL and O and M?

BO: There’s maybe just a bit more awareness on the ground in South Australia but other than that, they’re not too far off. Both are known as leagues with strong contested footy and I’ve found that to be the case here.

JB: What’s your footy background?

BO: I started playing in Meningie, which is a little town south east of Adelaide, before moving to Gawler. I played at Gawler Centrals in the same competition “Billy” (Luke Wells) is from. We might have played juniors against each other, but that’s about it. From there, I went to Central and played right through from under-18s.

JB: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

BO: Chris and James Gowans over in South Australia. They’ve played in nine SANFL flags each and I did my apprenticeship under them. They’re big names over there and they helped me a lot. Paul Thomas, who was my captain at Central, taught me a lot about workrate and all that. He was a pretty big influence, too.

JB: Who have you found yourself hanging around with at Albury?

BO: All the boys have been pretty good. I work with Josh Maher and Dean Polo, so probably those two.

JB: You must love playing in a midfield with guys like Joel Mackie, Chris Hyde and Dean Polo? You seem to complement each other quite well.

BO: It’s a pretty good midfield to be a part of. Having those guys takes the pressure off. If one of us is quiet, or getting tagged, then another will bob up. Joel is that in and under type, where myself and Hydey get it running and Dean does a bit of both. It’s good.

JB: You’ve gone goalless just once this season and kicked 41 for the year. Most forwards would be happy with that. What’s the secret?

BO: Like anyone else, I don’t mind kicking a goal. I actually played mostly midfield and half back in South Australia, so I never really got a crack forward. I always told them to play me there. I might have to let them know. We’ve had a really good spread of goalkickers this year, which is what you want. It doesn’t matter who kicks them.

JB: Here’s a curly one. Who would you rather play in the second semi-final? Lavington or Yarrawonga.

BO: I don’t mind. Both are quality sides. Lavi obviously sets up really well and everyone plays their role and Yarrawonga is hitting some good form. It’s going to be tough, either way.

JB: What needs to happen for Albury to win the flag?

BO: We just need to play as a team. We’re a good enough side, we just need that real team effort.

JB: Good luck with it all.

BO: Thanks.