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O'Loughlin inducted into Hall of Fame

Ben Collins  June 4, 2015 9:20 PM

SwansTV - HOF: Michael O'Loughlin The man called 'magic' was a premiership hero for the Sydney Swans
Michael O'Loughlin has been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Michael O'Loughlin has been inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Sydney Swans premiership star Michael O'Loughlin is the newest inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Somewhere in South Australia is an embarrassed junior footy coach.

During a quarter break in an SANFL under-17 final, the Central District coach berated a young Michael O'Loughlin in front of teammates and supporters, declaring: "You'll never play League football in South Australia."

"He was right," O'Loughlin recalled with a chuckle.

Of course, O'Loughlin leapfrogged the SANFL to play 303 AFL games, a one-time Sydney Swans record.

Being berated as a junior was one of several personal challenges the popular O'Loughlin overcame in a fine career.

O'Loughlin could easily have landed at Carlton, the club he supported, but the Swans swooped before the Blues, with pick 40 in the 1994 AFL National Draft.

"There were a lot of people who though I'd probably be in Sydney for a year or two and probably come back with my tail between my legs," O'Loughlin said. "I wanted to prove a lot of people wrong." 

O'Loughlin's AFL career almost ended before it began with homesickness prompting thoughts of quitting. He stuck it out at the urging of his mother Muriel, whose tough, unwavering love, proved critical.

O'Loughlin drew inspiration from teammates such as skipper Paul Kelly, who "set the standard and was about digging deep and finding something when you're absolutely knackered".

The brilliant O'Loughlin was the only Swan to play in both the 1996 grand final loss and the 2005 triumph.

"It was the best day in my football life," he said. "Seeing our fans crying, that will stay with me forever. That's what this footy club means to me – we've been almost extinct a few times but we keep fighting."

‘Magic’ O'Loughlin's career came close to extinction again in the early 2000s, this time courtesy of tendonitis in both knees.

He was forced to reinvent himself from a half-forward/midfielder to a permanent forward, part of which involved adding considerable strength and weight, and improving his marking.

He hardly trained, often only completing stationary ballwork on the training track, and jokes that in his quest for fitness he swam and rode around the world many times over.

Initially his lack of condition caused soft-tissue injuries, prompting "a season or two" of self-doubt.

But he succeeded admirably. 

"When things aren't going well, how do you stay strong?

"It's those times when you're by yourself down in the gym and there's no lights, no cameras, no one around to watch you, whether you actually do the work or not."

O'Loughlin credits his success to the Swans' famous Bloods culture, and coach Paul Roos and his assistants for managing him through the week. 

He also loved working in tandem with Swans premiership captain Barry Hall.

"We had a great little one-two punch going there for a while," O'Loughlin said.

"For me it was about making the most of your 10-15-20 possessions and making them really dangerous.

"I loved kicking goals (but) it was always about, 'How do I keep bringing other players into the game?' I was a big team player." 

Club: Sydney Swans

Born: February 20, 1977 

Recruited from: Central District (SA)

Playing career: 1995-2009 

Games: 303 games

Goals: 521 

Player honours: best & fairest 1998; 2nd best and fairest 2000; leading goalkicker 2000, 2001; premiership 2005; All-Australian 1997, 2000; Indigenous Team of the Century; State representative (SA 2 games); Fos Williams Medal 1998; International Rules (4 games)