OSCAR McDonald seized a chance to see firsthand exactly what the Rebels would be up against this weekend.
He sat up elevated from the ground in the stands at Visy Park and studied how Sandringham played – and the Dragons’ elimination final rival Murray, just in case – and how the Dragons set up their structure on the field and who might be the players to watch.
McDonald watched what panned out, alongside North Ballarat Rebels coach David Loader, team manager Brooke Brown and injured teammate Sam Hooper and, as part of the Rebels leadership group, has been helping disseminate their findings to the playing squad.
“We learned a fair bit from it ... it helps to sit up a bit higher and watch how they set up around the ground. Vision tends to focus on the ball carrier but we had a whole overview on all the little things,” McDonald said.
“We want to put pressure on them up forward and make them fumble but they’re just as good as any team on their day.”
Amid semi-finals preparations, McDonald received word he had been elevated to screening at the AFL Combine next month.
The 18-year-old was one of four promotions from state testing invitations based on good form the past month.
He was hopeful that hard work would earn a spot and was thrilled to receive the news at training on Tuesday night, but said his focus is first and foremost the Rebels’ finals campaign.
“It is good news, a stepping stone to my larger goal but if we can get this win, we get another chance for more finals and that’s great experience for the whole club,” McDonald said.
“Finals really helps bottom-age players like Jacob Wheelahan and Josh Cowan, who have really stepped up towards finals, to come back stronger next season.”
McDonald is the younger brother of Melbourne defender Tom McDonald, who was drafted from the Rebels in 2010.
He knows the drafting system and what it takes to reach AFL ranks.
He also knows how unpredictable the system can be.
They have travelled a similar path through under-18s, hailing from Edenhope-Apsley and boarding at St Patrick’s College where Oscar now has a traineeship as a teachers’ aide.
Neither brother featured in the AFL under-18 national championships for Vic Country and Tom attended state screening, rather than national.
But Oscar McDonald knows to keep aiming to put his best on field.
His leadership has been invaluable in an injury-riddled year for the Rebels.
McDonald said most weeks only two of the Rebels’ nine-player leadership group was in action.
The Rebels lost their first four games of the season but once they clicked and sustained their work across four quarters, they claimed a breakthrough win against then-ladder leader Oakleigh – the first team to beat the Chargers this season.
It was the confidence boost the Rebels needed. They went on to win the next seven and snared a top-four spot.
“We then had a couple of setbacks but a couple of good games too,” McDonald said.
“... We got into finals and won against Oakleigh in the final round to cement a top-four spot when everything else went our way in results.”