PANMURE livewire Shamus O’Beirne reckons he was only hitting “30 or 40 per cent” of his targets when he first crossed from North Warrnambool Eagles.
He’s always had speed — breaking the lines has never been an issue. But his poor foot skills meant the blessing of genetics was never fully capitalised upon.
That was in 2010. Fast forward to 2014 and O’Beirne is one of the most damaging outside runners in the Warrnambool and District league.
The 23-year-old has played every match this season as the Bulldogs raced to the minor premiership. His 21 goals from a wing is a career high.
O’Beirne said his rise gained momentum at the back end of 2012, when Panmure won the premiership under first-year coach Simon “Tocka” O’Keefe.
He enjoyed a breakout 2013 campaign, culminating in a second flag and team-of-the-year selection, and has taken his game to another level in 2014.
“The last two seasons I’ve worked a bit more on skills, that’s helped a heap for me,” the university student said.
“I’ve found my confidence going in and getting the ball has improved. This year, that practice has paid off the most.
“Tocka put the pressure on me to have a go and have a bit more of a crack and back myself in a bit more.
“That final against Kolora-Noorat (in 2012) I had a good game and gained a bit of confidence from that going into next season.”
O’Beirne again looms as a key figure for the Bulldogs when they meet Merrivale in the second semi-final at Noorat Recreation Reserve today.
The sides have split their two clashes this season, with the Tigers inflicting the Bulldogs’ first defeat in a Sunday showdown in round 16.
“We’re trying to put that in the past but learn from it at the same time. Every team has a bad game, I suppose. We were all off that day,” O’Beirne said. Panmure coach Simon O’Keefe was likewise unfazed by the defeat four weeks back. “We’ll take things out of it but we’re not really reading into it too much.”
O’Keefe said the week’s rest, courtesy of finishing on top of the ladder, had been crucial for his players as they chased a third consecutive premiership.
“We were definitely pretty fatigued and body sore and mentally a bit tired as well,” he said. “We’ve freshened up well. Our lead-up to this game has been good. We’ve prepared ourselves as best we can. Now we’ve got to put it on the park.”
Merrivale coach Karl Dwyer said the Tigers were excited they have a shot at making the grand final. He said his side was not getting carried away with its win over the Bulldogs four weeks ago.
“It’s always good to win but that win was more about us getting in the top three,” he said. “We know we can do it, there are no dramas about that, but finals are a different ball game.”
He expects the space at Noorat will suit his outside running players. “I think a lot will depend on winning the ball in close.”
The Tigers regain key forward/ruckman Rhys Raymond from a calf injury and defender Mark Stewart from a foot complaint.
Dwyer said forward James Fary, who has played 18 of the Tigers’ 19 matches, was left out in a bid to find form in the reserves. “He just needs a bit of touch.”