Jonathan O’Rourke is hoping for a big season in Blue. (PHOTO CREDIT: Cristian Filippo)
THE coach, the Club and the culture — they were three big factors in Jonathan O’Rourke’s decision to sign for the Northern Blues in 2019.
The former Giant and Hawk became Northern’s third key acquisition of the off-season, joining fellow AFL recruits in Kieran Collins and Alex Johnson.
Having settled into his new home, O’Rourke is loving his new surrounds.
It’s affirmation and vindication for the decision he made at the beginning of February — and it was a choice he didn’t take lightly.
“It was a tough decision. I wasn’t sure where I was going to play footy,” O’Rourke said.
“I caught up with ‘Frase’ and [General Manager] Ben Brennan and I thought this was a good fit.
???? | All the goals, all the highlights from Sunday's grandstand finish against the Pies.#Northbound
— Northern Blues FC (@NBluesFC) March 12, 2019
“There are good facilities, good staff and a professional environment — I thought it’d be a great place to come in and fit in with the Club.”
As someone who’s had his fair share of injuries in the past, O’Rourke was under no illusions that he needed to head to a club with a clear direction and strong support crew.
He said he found that almost instantly, on both fronts.
“I’m really enjoying working with ‘Frase’ — he’s been a ripping fella from the moment I met him,” he said.
“The way he’s coaching the boys: he’s got the professional side to him as well as the fun side, which is pretty important at this level. He’s definitely got the players’ vote.”
“The way the Club goes about things with their fitness and strength and conditioning — I’ve had a few injuries in my career, so I had to go to a club where I had the right people around me and get me up to play each week.”
O’Rourke knows more than most the requirements to play and succeed in the VFL competition, having achieved premiership success with Box Hill just six months ago.
That experience and knowledge of success is something which the 24-year-old believes he can offer a group which is striving to bring finals football to the Club for the first time in eight years.
“I’ve played a fair bit of VFL football, and last year playing in the premiership with Box Hill. It gave me a good look at what it takes to win at the top level in the VFL,” he said.
“I think I can bring what I’ve learnt from there as well as the Hawthorn Football Club, which is a strong club with a lot of experienced players who I’ve seen go about their business.
“We’re a pretty young club here, so if I can bring a bit of that, hopefully that can take us a fair way.”
With the Blues now two matches down into pre-season, O’Rourke is hopeful that — after his late start — he’ll be able to pull on the jumper for the first time.
As he continues to get more and more involved, he’s liking what he’s seeing.
— Northern Blues FC (@NBluesFC) February 26, 2019
“I’ve been doing a fair bit of running around the boundary and getting my conditioning up — I’ve had a bit of time to watch them train and play,” he said.
“It looks like there’s a fair group of boys here who can play some serious footy, and a lot of them are still young. They’ve got plenty of talent.
“I’d hope to get either one or both of the practice matches in so I’m feeling good once the season starts. I’ve had a pretty strong block over the last month.”
And what exactly was his perception of the Northern Blues, from the outside looking in?
“The Northern Blues have always had a crack. I’ve had a few encounters with the Blues in the past,” he said.
“They’ve always been a team that has gone in and been pretty physical. This year, if we can continue that and add a bit more flair and open the game up, it’ll put us in a pretty good position.
“I’ll do my best to offer that, there are plenty of boys that I’ve seen which can do that. Hopefully we can get a team contribution.