REWIND just over 12 months and there is a tall figure running around Alberton Oval that probably sticks out a little from his peers.
Young Ollie Lord is mere months into his first AFL pre-season and the step up to playing against men for the first time has hit him like a tonne of bricks.
The wiry key forward has barely played a game of football in the past 12 months due to the impacts of COVID-19 to junior football in Victoria and now faces the reality of being beaten up by the likes of Tom Jonas, Tom Clurey and Trent McKenzie on the daily.
Many could be excused for feeling out of place, but while his young frame still had some developing to do, one trait that helped him find a home with Port Adelaide with pick 49 in the 2020 National Draft is key to keeping him there - competitiveness.
Lord’s first year at Alberton admittedly had its challenges, but he continued to put in the hours in the gym and hone his craft in the difficult role as the number one target in attack for the club’s SANFL side.
That perseverance saw him rewarded with a contract extension this week.
“Firstly, I’m just super stoked,” Lord told portadelaidefc.com.au after signing through to at least the end of 2023. “Really, really happy that I’m able to get another year in the system.”
“The more time I get in an AFL system the better I’ll be. I’m just looking forward to what’s to come and really happy with another year around the footy club.
“For me it was a bit different not playing a lot of footy leading up to my draft and I feel like it took a while to get used to playing footy 24/7 again.
“I feel a lot more settled now than I did 12 months ago. It’s been a pretty dramatic change.”
While happy to secure another year at Alberton, the 20-year-old isn’t resting on his laurels when it comes to pushing his development further.
Hours in the gym have helped him add valuable weight to his frame to throw around in the forward line, while he also hopes it will help him impact games as a back-up ruckman.
Not many skinny teenagers would jump at the chance to bash and crash with the big bodies among the SANFL ruck stocks, but the ultra-competitive Lord insists, “I love rucking” and has never shirked the issue when asked to head to the centre square.
“My body is feeling really good now. I’m the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been. I’m really excited to see what I can do this season,” said Lord, who booted 10 goals from 14 SANFL games in 2021.
“I was about 82-83kg when I first came to the club and I’m about 93kgs now.
“I can definitely feel a difference and hopefully I can add a couple more kilos in the coming years.”
Lord wasn’t alone either in putting pen to paper on a new deal with Port Adelaide, with first-year duo, and fellow Sandringham Dragon products, Dante Visentini and Josh Sinn also signing on during the week.
It was a welcome sight to see two friends make a commitment to stay at Alberton, but Lord believes more importantly it is testament to the strong culture Port Adelaide has created in recent years that has led to a high level of player retention over an extended period of time.
“I’m super happy for Dante and Josh. I feel as though they’ve come in a similar position to what I was last year and put their best foot forward – they both work really hard and they’re nice guys off the field as well.
“They’ve added to our nice little Dragon Squad. We’ve got a couple older boys as well (Karl Amon and Miles Bergman). It’s nice to have some familiar faces (at Alberton) when they came around at the start of the year.
“It’s one of the many examples that Port have such a strong culture between the players and the coaching staff.
“It feels like a family club. I feel as if I’m part of something really special.
“I know a lot of our senior players say that we’re a family and we’re really close because we’re (together) a lot, but I truly think that standard, as a younger player myself, that rubs off on me.
“As the other boys can comment as well, we’re really lucky to be part of such a good club which has welcomed us into the first 12-18 months (of our careers).