Michael O'Loughlin
303 games
521 goals
Premiership Player 2005
Best & Fairest 1998
Leading Goalkicker 2000, 2001
All-Australian 1997, 2000
AFL Indigenous Team of the Century
AFL Hall of Fame


During crisp South Australian winters, Michael O'Loughlin joined his family on most weekends to watch one of the SANFL's most popular folk-hero players. His uncle, Wilbur Wilson, played 171 games for Central District, kicking 331 goals with his lethal left boot. 

Wilson's advice and mentorship meant the world. O'Loughlin's mum, Muriel, ensured that football came second to homework and chores, but once completed, he fled for a footy. When he was seven, O'Loughlin kicked three goals in the Under 9s, and from that moment, the game was his passion. 

As the eldest of six in the northern Adelaide suburb of Salisbury North, O'Loughlin learnt discipline, respect and community pride. He describes his childhood as a happy time, surrounded by friends and family—most of whom loved having a kick.

"If you don't know where you're from, you don't know where you're going," O'Loughlin said.

He dreamt of making it to the big time for a long time. Playing for the South Australian Under 18s at the 1994 National Championships, coached by Russell Ebert, placed him firmly on the radar. O'Loughlin barracked for Carlton, and the Blues said they'd draft him with pick 42 if he was available.

Well, he wasn't. The Swans held pick 40 and swooped on the talented youngster, impressed by his deft touch. O'Loughlin admits he wasn't thrilled then, but a combination of motherly advice, drive to succeed, and the opportunity to play alongside another Central District hero, Derek Kickett, helped him on his way.

He was so keen that he arrived before pre-season training had begun. A club official told him to head to the beach, where another recruit would be training privately. O'Loughlin asked who, and the reply was, “You'll recognise him”. On the sand, the first Swan he met was new full-forward Tony Lockett, who'd just arrived from St Kilda.

"When I got to Sydney, I knew nothing of the history except that they'd been on the bottom of the ladder. The club now recognises how the past players can help the younger generations come through to learn about what the club has been through. It's done really well these days," O'Loughlin said.

It didn't take long for O'Loughlin to become a regular in the senior side. He debuted in Round 5 of the 1995 season, kicking three goals. Then, three weeks later, he kicked four goals, illuminating the SCG in a masterful display against Carlton in a thumping 72-point win.

His first Swans coach, the legendary Ron Barassi, was impressed by the teenager's will to succeed and was not surprised to see his instant impact. At the end of O'Loughlin's promising first season, Rodney Eade replaced Barassi, bringing with him a playbook packed with innovation.

O'Loughlin quickly earned the nickname Magic. His sublime skills impressed, but beneath the finesse lay a fierce determination to become professional. And it was tough. He worked hard on his running capacity, his strength and his diet. In his youth, O'Loughlin watched Michael Jordan videos; he read Jordan's book and strived to emulate his work ethic.

In 1996, the Swans soared into the Grand Final. After starting well, they were overrun by a strong Kangaroos line-up. O'Loughlin was 19, kicked two goals, and lapped up the whole experience. It had been 51 years since the club's last Grand Final appearance, and when the team appeared on stage at the club's after-match dinner to Verdi's Triumphal March, the red and white faithful showed their appreciation by way of a standing ovation.

Selection on the half-forward flank in the 1997 All-Australian team followed. In 1998, O'Loughlin won the Swans' best and fairest, and in 2000, his second All-Australian selection while finishing the year as the club's leading goalkicker. He finished his career as the second highest goalkicker in Swans' history.

Under Eade, the Swans became one of the competition's most consistent teams. However, sizeable cracks appeared in 2002, and Paul Roos took the reins. "Roosy was a master coach and a master communicator with the players. To try and enjoy the moment was something that he was pretty big on. Roosy always had that relaxed vibe about him anyway, and that certainly rubs off on the players, which was invaluable," O'Loughlin said.

O'Loughlin thrived in a more traditional full-forward role, joined by the likes of Barry Hall, Ryan O'Keefe and Nick Davis in the Swans' dangerous forward line, and by 2005, they'd developed into a serious contender. Nine years after his first Grand Final, O'Loughlin prepared for his second.

"We were the lucky ones that got to play in the game, but we represented so much more. You could feel the emotion in the ground. The crowd that day was riding every bump and kick, and then when the siren went, they broke down. We all broke down," O'Loughlin recalled.

"Winning that premiership was not just for the guys out on the field; it has so much more meaning to me. It was a big thank you for the loyalty that so many people had shown. We had great leadership from Richard Colless and the board. They believed in what Roosy was putting together. The players believed in what Roosy was putting together, and we finally got there and clinched one. It really was the people's cup."

When O'Loughlin speaks about footy, his words are steeped in red and white. In June 2009, he announced his retirement, and Roos lauded his ability to make others feel better no matter the circumstance, always with a smile and a positive outlook.

Just weeks later, O'Loughlin created history, becoming the first Swans player to reach 300 senior games. Those at the club and those closest to him duly celebrated the occasion with a win against Richmond at the MCG.

He remains tight with many former teammates, none more so than fellow Bloods champion Brett Kirk. During that milestone match, Kirk could be heard screaming 'Do it for Majo' at every stoppage.

"He's just really special, and he's left a lasting legacy at our footy club about what a teammate should be—on and off the field—he really cares for you," Kirk said.

"Players at other footy clubs always respected him; he's so respected in his community with his work for Aboriginal people, and he continues to be a role model, leading the way for so many."

O'Loughlin is a proud Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri, and Narungga man. In 2005, he was selected at full-forward in the AFL’s Indigenous Team of the Century. In 2009, the AFL Players' Association awarded him the prestigious Madden Medal, recognising on and off-field excellence and community spirit. That year, he also co-founded the GO Foundation with Adam Goodes, and he works tirelessly to drive educational and economic empowerment for Indigenous Australians.

It's difficult to overstate O'Loughlin's impact at the Sydney Swans, and the club is a dearly treasured part of his life. "Something I'm adamant about is when you come to a footy club, you're only passing through. You've got to leave it in a better place than you found it. I'm fortunate to have gone through with so many mates on that journey with me."

"I say to my mates that no one's more red and white than me."