The son of Sydney Swans great Michael O’Loughlin is in the thick of “a mini AFL experience” and has a burning desire to one day follow his dad onto the biggest stage of all.
James O’Loughlin was one of 23 prodigiously talented under-12 schoolboys selected for the NSW Primary School Sports Association (PSSA) team for the 2019 Australian Football Championships.
Hosted by School Sport Australia and held in Mandurah, 70 kilometres south of Perth, the championships got underway on Sunday and will round out with placings games on Saturday.
James, a product of the QBE Sydney Swans Academy and the Maroubra Saints, hopes to use the championships as a stepping stone to the AFL.
“I really want to play in the AFL one day,” O’Loughlin said.
“It would be awesome to run out for my AFL debut one day because everyone’s cheering you on, and once you’re in the AFL you’re playing against the very best.”
NSW coach Kade Stevens hopes James isn’t the only one of his young charges chasing the bright lights of the AFL.
“I’d love to think that it’s the dream of every one of these kids to play in the AFL,” Stevens said.
“As 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds the highest level of footy they can be playing at is the Australian Football Champs, so in some ways this is a mini AFL experience because they’re playing against the best players in the nation. I’m sure they’ve all got aspirations to play in the AFL.”
The 2019 under-12 NSW PSSA team with Sydney Swans star Callum Mills.
James’ dad was the first Swan in VFL/AFL history to play 300 games, and he’d retire with 303 matches, a premiership, two All Australian blazers, a Bob Skilton Medal and two club leading goal-kicker awards beside his name.
The man adored as ‘Magic’ is also an Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee, a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and a Swans Hall of Famer and Life Member.
Stevens says watching James play reminds him of his decorated dad.
“He’s a very elusive forward that can play through the midfield as well,” Stevens said.
“He’s very exciting to watch, like his father, and I’m looking forward to seeing him continue to step up.”
Not only does James have a legend of the game to ask for tips in the backyard, but a pair of former Sydney champions showing the way for him at the Academy.
Jared Crouch and Nick Davis, members of Sydney’s 2005 premiership team, are James’ Academy coaches.
And the Waverley College Junior School student believes his game has soared since joining the Academy last year.
Former Sydney Swans champion Michael O'Loughlin runs out for his 300th AFL match with daughter Taya (left) and son James (right) in 2009.
“I’ve improved quite a lot since joining the Academy and mainly with my skills,” James said.
“I do a lot of training, the Academy coaches expect high expectations and the Academy boys are always working hard at training and in games.”
James and his NSW teammates visited the SCG last Friday for a guernsey presentation and to watch the Swans train.
Emerging Sydney defender Callum Mills, once a member of the NSW PSSA team himself, presented the jumpers in the prestigious Members Stand.
Stevens said his young team would cherish the visit to the revered Moore Park venue.
“Receiving their jumpers from Callum Mills, who took the same pathway to the AFL, is massive for these boys,” Stevens said.
“And watching the Swans train here today would certainly be fuelling their dreams to one day reach the highest level.”