OLLIE WINES ON FOOTBALL AND FLYING
At one point we were looking at maybe being a top two side, so for us to then completely miss the finals means that something had drastically gone wrong. We’ve had a thorough review of what happened as a club, and we have started to put changes into action to rectify that, and I expect that there will be a lot more changes over pre-season
Ollie Wines is one of ‘the’ players in the AFL. Young, strong and so determined, his trademark blond hair can most often be spotted as he smashes through a midfield pack or spins out of a tackle to drive Port Adelaide into attack. Despite another rock solid AFL season (he averaged 26 disposals across 22 games), Port inexplicably imploded in 2018 and Wines told ANDREW JOHNSTON his club was working overtime to fix that before its opening round clash with Melbourne at the MCG on March 23
OLLIE Wines, AFL captain in waiting, Port Power star and 129 games played (and just turned 24 this month) has a dream. To win a premiership. No kidding? A premiership with Echuca. With Echuca? He hasn’t even played an AFL grand final, let alone won it. What the hell is he talking about?
Then Wines explained it might not be something we see anytime soon (whew) but it’s a dream he has made clear he will hold onto tightly until his AFL career is played out.
It has been six years since his pick seven in the AFL draft took him to the city of churches but his love for the Echuca Football Club will almost certainly see him back in bottle green one day.
“It’s definitely on my football bucket list,” Wines said while back in Echuca for a break.
“Once I’m done in the AFL, I want to win a GVL flag with Echuca. I got close once as a player, though I missed a lot of that due to playing rep footy.
“As a young guy growing up, you want to play footy for your town.”
Wines said he had never forgotten where he came from.
And, as he would happily tell you, nor would he want to.
“It’s one of the highlights of my year being able to come home,” he said.
“As good as the city is at times, I’m still a country boy, so any time I get to come home and spend time with my mum and dad and all the people around town who have supported me as I have grown, it really is very special.”
Right now the Port Adelaide vicecaptain is lapping up his me-time in the twin towns.
“I spend a lot of time with them (his parents) while I’m home up in the office. All three of my siblings are away in Melbourne now, so getting to be with them and spend that time is very special.
“I really just chill out during the day. Have a run and go to the gym in the morning, and then just float around.”
Six years at Port Adelaide have seen Wines grow into not just one of the best young midfielders in the game but one of the competition’s marquee players.
After signing a four-year extension with the Power midway through 2018 he put an end to early season speculation he would return to Victoria.
While Wines happily admitted there were offers he said the decision to stay at Port Adelaide was an easy one.
“You have to weigh up the options,” he said.
“It would almost have been negligent of me not to see where I could go or if I could possibly end up back in Victoria.
“But in the end, the decision was fairly easy. Port Adelaide has done everything right by me, and I’m very happy to be there for the next four seasons.”
Hopefully it will see Wines through a resurgence of his Power, who are coming off the back of a stunning late season collapse.
“It was really disappointing,” he said.
“At one point we were 11-4, so for us to end the season the way that we did is really disappointing.
“At one point we were looking at maybe being a top two side, so for us to then completely miss the finals means that something had drastically gone wrong.
Seeing what Andrew has done and the impact he has had not just on the footy club, but on the town, it makes me want to come back and be a part of the club again when I get the chance
“WE’VE had a thorough review of what happened as a club, and we have started to put changes into action to rectify that, and I expect that there will be a lot more changes over the preseason.”
Wines is proving his mettle as a leader in the side.
A senior player and already the vice-captain of the club, the rumour mill already has him stepping into the top job for the 2019 season.
Wines is proud of the fact that he is valued as a leader within his club, but says it’s not just the leadership group that is consulted on the club’s development.
“I think we as a club are very good at that, we go to the entire group for their perspective. We are the guys who have to go out on the weekend and play, so the club does look to us as a playing group for our views on the way things are going and what we can change to improve as a club.”
After the late season struggles for what was a very strong group, the club knows it needs to get better in 2019.
And Wines wants to improve personally too.
“I see myself at this stage as being in the top range of mids in the competition,” he said.
“I want to improve, continue to develop as a player and hopefully get to be one of the top five mids in the comp.
“There is still a lot of work, and I want to find where I can improve. I aspire to be one of those players who is able to change the game by the way he plays; like a Dustin Martin or a Tom Mitchell (compared to Wines’ 26 disposals Patrick Dangerfield averaged 28.1 in the same 22 games and Tom Mitchell 35.3 in 24 games. Dustin Martin played 23 games for 23 disposals).
“As a team, we set the year up really well in 2018.
“Simply, we want to continue that momentum for a full year. Since I came to the club, we have played finals three times, but have never been a top four side. It’s something we need to do in order to set us up for a tilt in the finals.”
While Wines was locked away midseason, he had to sit through a trade period where his club was very active.
A number of his teammates – namely Chad Wingard and Jared Polec – left, while the club turned to some young talent. And stacked its draft hand. Wines said he was happy with the additions to the club.
“I’m really happy with how we came away from the period and in a really high quality draft got ourselves three picks inside 15, so hopefully even more quality is coming.”
While that’s all well and good for one of the league’s most historic teams – Port’s tradition stretches back to 1870. In its SANFL incarnation it had appeared in 74 grand finals and won 36 of them (including six in a row) – it’s a different kettle of fish for some of the AFL’s expansion sides.
Although Wines said players do hear the noise surrounding clubs like the Gold Coast – and while he joined other football fans in their concern – he said his priority was always Port Adelaide.
“You want all the clubs in the competition to be successful,” he said.
“We want the best quality of football across every club, so there are some concerns when players are leaving and Gold Coast gets in trouble.
“But at Port Adelaide while we want what is best for the competition, even more we want what is best for us, and that’s our own success.
“That is something we can control and make an effort with, so that will remain our priority.”
As much as Port Adelaide dominates his life Wines still keeps a very close eye on his hometown club.
And he took great pride in their 2018 season.
“I was really impressed,” he said. “I went into the year hoping we would play finals, and was really proud of how they went.
“They haven’t only done it by shipping guys in from Melbourne; it’s been by developing local guys who have been in the system since they were juniors.
“It’s really important for a club to be able to keep its local talent, so I’m really excited that they have been. Simon Maddox and Andrew Walker have done a great job with them, and while it’s a shame they didn’t get to the grand final, clearly we are on the right track.”
And he said the impact Walker had made was part of why he wants to be back in the bottle green one day.
“Seeing what Andrew has done and the impact he has had not just on the footy club, but on the town, it makes me want to come back and be a part of the club again when I get the chance.”
When Wines went top 10 in the draft and went to Adelaide it seemed only the sky was his limit.
But apparently not, because now the focused footballer is conquering that as well. “I love flying,” Wines said. “Growing up I’ve always loved machines – cars, boats and especially aeroplanes. My uncle has been a pilot for QANTAS for 30 years, so when the opportunity presented itself to do some lessons and get my recreational license I took it.
“Part of that was the lure of being able to fly back to Echuca at times. I haven’t had that opportunity yet, but I’m hoping I can do that when I have some spare time in the pre-season for a weekend.
“It’s been fantastic for me in providing an out, something to focus on away from footy. The club really wants you to have something to get you away from it.
“We are seeing guys suffer from mental issues due to the stress, so having something to get your mind away from footy is increasingly important.”
And right now, his way out of football is simply being at home and enjoying the simple things about it. “I really like Scenic Drive,” he said. “I walk it with my dad every night; it’s simple, it’s a nice relaxing thing to do.
“So doing that and spending time with mum and dad, that’s all you could ask for.”
Apart from that AFL flag (or two or three) and then the GVL had better stand back.
THE MANY FACES OF OLLIE: Severely formal in 2016 when appointed vice captain to Travis Boak; delighted to be in the cockpit after gaining his pilot’s licence and his sheer jubilation when Aidyn Johnson, another of Port’s Echuca footballers, played his first senior game and kicked his first goal.