Shepparton teen Oscar Ryan is ready to live out childhood dream ahead of AFL Draft
When about half the AFL clubs met with a teenager from Shepparton there’s no guessing what would have surprised them most about the talented footballer.
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Not the fact that he works casual hours at the butchers, or that he’s a mad Melbourne supporter, it would no doubt be what motivates him in life.
Oscar Ryan isn’t like most kids his age.
He’s not thinking about himself first, far from it, his first point of call is to help those around him.
The recent Notre Dame graduate gave a glimpse into his personal life as he prepared for the biggest week of his early life.
The Shepparton United draft prospect is only hours away from learning if his childhood dream becomes a reality when the AFL Draft kicks off on Monday night.
Ryan’s name has been thrown around by AFL pundits and he is expected to land at a club via a late pick.
Understandably there are no certainties and, like any 18-year-old, Ryan is “stressed” about what the next 48 hours have in store for him.
Will he land a gig at the elite level? Or will he have to initiate Plan B?
How does someone, let alone a teenager who has spent less than 20 cycles around the Sun, deal with this massive life moment?
Well according to Ryan there’s only one thing you can do.
“I’ve got this group of school kids that I help teach and mentor, Year 7s and 8s, and it’s helped take my mind off it (the draft),” Ryan said last week as he looked out across Deakin Reserve.
“It was a good getaway with everything else going on.
“Helping them with their footy, they’re always asking me about my footy, but it’s good seeing them grow. It’s in school hours at Notre and on Wednesday’s we’d do it for four periods where we’d teach them some footy, go on runs with them, it’s a good thing for them to have ... and Joeve (Cooper) and I really enjoyed it.
“Community services ... it’s what I want to do after footy.
“We started the program last year and we really enjoyed it. I like teaching and helping people out and I think that’s probably what I like about it the most and it gets me where I want to go.”
The exciting Murray Bushranger caught the eye of recruiters and clubs during a memorable 2023 season.
Ryan finished runner-up best-and-fairest for the Coates Talent League outfit as he starred across half-back and through the midfield with his clean skills, intercepting and ball-winning ability.
He earned selection for Vic Country at the National Championships and it was at that level where he displayed traits of a gun defender ― elite decision-making and ability to cut through opposition lines ― and started to make clubs sit up and take notice.
But for those who know Ryan best, this was just another step in the right direction for a talent who showcased so much excitement as a junior.
Those days of being named best-afield at senior Goulburn Valley League level as a 16-year-old helped shape him into the star player he is quickly becoming.
An invite to the National Draft Combine ensured from his efforts for Victoria and he gave onlookers a further glimpse at his talents with a strong showing in the 20m sprint.
“I got three (seconds) flat twice in a row, which is a bit rigged, I’m not sure how you can get that twice in a row,” he said with a laugh.
“I was happy with my score; I’ve done a bit of work on that and it’s good to see that pay off.
“That’s sort of my main asset (breaking lines). Taking the game on is probably what I’m best at and as a half-backer you need to be able to do that and I love being able to do it.”
Those three days at the combine also featured meetings with AFL clubs ― even if his beloved Dees haven’t come knocking.
“It was a pretty nervous time,” Ryan said.
“It was a long three days, but it was a good three days too. I had around eight clubs meet with me ... it’s very exciting, but it’s also very intimidating as well.
“They (Melbourne) haven’t spoken to me, so I’m a bit down on it, nah it’s all right, I can’t expect to speak with every club. You can’t pick where you go and you’ve got to accept it.
“It was cool meeting all the coaches, it was surreal really. They don’t give you too much, they don’t give you any indication that they might pick you.”
Which brings us to draft week.
The emotions one can experience are well documented, with hundreds of draft hopefuls set to have their life impacted in one way or another.
For the crop of players expected to go in the top 20 or so picks it’s not as daunting a week as others, but there are always heartbreak tales.
Ryan knows it will be a “major shock” if his name is read out on night one of the two-day event ― with Tongala star Harley Reid set to go pick one.
Two rounds will be completed tonight, followed by rounds three, four, five, six and seven on Tuesday evening.
Ryan may be joined at AFL level by another Goulburn Valley talent, with Shepparton youngster and Oakleigh Charger Boston Dowling tipped to get his name read out.
Although he has “no idea” of what to expect at the draft, Ryan is soaking it all up in the only way he knows how.
“You’ve got to enjoy it; it’s only going to come around once in your life,” Ryan said.
“It’s a stressful time and a hard time, but at the same time it’s a good thing to look forward to and I’m just trying to enjoy it.
“People ask me ‘do you know where you’re going?’ and I honestly have no idea, you probably know more than me.
“You can’t control the draft and what’s going to happen, so I’m sort of doing things that can help me take my mind off things.
“Hanging out with my mates, training for footy, working with the kids ... I’m just trying to keep my mind off it.”
And what about his Plan B?
“I’ve got a plan B if I don’t (get drafted), but I don’t really think about it too much. My main goal is to get drafted,” Ryan said.
“If it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world, I’ve got a back-up plan, but hopefully the first plan works out, but if not, I’ve got the second plan.”