THE silver lining to a disappointing season for Russells Creek has been the opportunity to expose young talent to the big time.
Paddy O’Brien is the proof. The teenager, a product of the Kangaroos’ junior program, has played 13 matches in his first senior year under coach Jay Everall.
He knows that might not have been the case if he was at a stronger Warrnambool and District league club, or testing himself in the Hampden league.
But he’s making a name for himself as an emerging key defender with little fuss or fanfare, thanks to the faith Everall has placed in him.
“It was the same when I first started in juniors. We had 10 or 14 players. They chucked me in the deep end. That’s how you learn,” O’Brien said.
“If I was at a stronger team I’d only just be getting myself into seniors. I’d be a year back in my development. It has really helped me being at Creek.”
O’Brien, a former Emmanuel College student enjoying a gap year, is one of a host of young footballers at Russells Creek that club officials have high hopes for.
As Everall has repeated many times this season, the playing list is largely split between those over 30 and those under 20. It’s a mix unreflective of a premiership team. But those at Creek acknowledge season 2014 has been about rebuilding with a view to the future.
O’Brien’s confidence is higher because he’s taken on — and occasionally matched — some of the best goalkickers in the league.
“I’ve got a lot more confidence in myself to be playing in the senior side, that’s the main thing,” he said.
“Coming out of juniors it’s not a shock, but you’re not as comfortable as you are in a junior team when you’re a lot bigger than everyone else.
“It’s the confidence to know I can match it against a lot of other blokes and play as well as any other player on the ground.”
When the rare wins do arrive — such as a 30-point triumph over Deakin University last round — they are celebrated as if the match was a final.
“We haven’t had that many people in the rooms all season. It’s been ages. Everyone was so happy, it was like a grand final.”
Russells Creek takes on Dennington at Dennington Recreation Reserve in round 15 of the Warrnambool and District league today.
The match will be the last for O’Brien before he heads to Sri Lanka for a late-season holiday and to attend a wedding.