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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.

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