Rugby League

Mixed emotions for young Blue as unforgettable debut adds to family history

Key points

  • Ollie Hollands joined fellow 2022 draftee Lachie Cowan in making his AFL debut for Carlton. 
  • Almost 30 friends and family were on hand to watch Hollands’ Blues settle for a draw with Richmond.
  • The 19-year-old’s great-grandfather, father and brother have also played VFL/AFL football.

As far as debuts go, Ollie Hollands knows his will take some beating.

The lifelong Carlton fan lived out his childhood dream of playing for the Blues on Thursday night, alongside fellow debutant Lachie Cowan – but that was just the start of his adventure on the MCG.

Ollie Hollands enjoyed an eventful AFL debut on Thursday night.Credit:Getty Images

Almost 30 of his family and friends were among the crowd of 88,084 for the season-opening clash, and they witnessed a thrilling draw between Hollands’ Carlton and Richmond, the club his father Ben played eight games for in 1999.

“There were a lot of mixed emotions, to be honest. It’s definitely something you don’t think about [a draw] coming into the game, but I think as a team, we’re not too disappointed,” Hollands said.

“We played a really strong brand of footy. The emotions are mixed right now, but I think over the next week, it’ll probably become a little bit clearer leading into [playing against] Geelong. But it was definitely an unusual outcome.”

Not only was it the first draw Hollands had ever played in, but the 19-year-old midfielder even had a couple of on-field stoushes with Tigers leviathan Tom Lynch, the man whose last-minute goal sealed the dramatic stalemate.

The first of them came via a one-on-two contest deep in defence, where Hollands managed to deny Lynch and Maurice Rioli junior before delivering a clearing kick that put the ball more than 50 metres from Richmond’s goal and drew rapturous applause from the Blues’ faithful.

The teenager, whose great-grandfather Martin Cross played 36 matches for Carlton in the 1960s, was considered the best two-way runner in last year’s draft and was subsequently snapped up with the 11th pick overall.

Ollie Hollands did not shirk the physical stuff in his first AFL game.Credit:AFL Photos

That followed his brother, Gold Coast footballer Elijah, being the No.7 selection in the 2020 draft.

Hollands, who finished with 11 disposals and three tackles, did not miss a pre-season training session and played in both Carlton’s practice matches, but that contested win against Lynch and Rioli was the confidence spike he needed.

“They’re the little moments in the game that boost your energy a little bit and give that little bit of confidence that you can actually handle it,” he said.

“To be able to do it and have a moment like that on such a good player like Lynch [was a great feeling] but even just the feedback and support from your teammates to be able to say, ‘Oh, well done’ gives that little bit of extra confidence.”

Lynch, who tips the scales at 100 kilograms, exacted some revenge in the second half, when he buried the 72-kilogram kid from Wodonga in a bruising tackle. But Hollands did not take a backwards step all night and bounced to his feet to remonstrate with Richmond’s 199-centimetre giant, although he was grateful that his more evenly matched teammates Lewis Young and Jacob Weitering arrived in solidarity.

“It was actually pretty funny. It was a little bit of white-line fever that kicked in, but it was nice to have [some] support from Youngy, and I think Weiters was in there as well,” he said.

“It’s footy; that’s what happens, so it was just a bit of fun, to be honest. He’s definitely big. Him and Harry [McKay] are probably two of the biggest guys I’ve ever come across.”

The Hollands clan, including ollie’s girlfriend Jemma Griffiths, were on hand for hugs and photos after the match, capping a night the young star is unlikely to ever forget.

“The people in the rooms are the people who have been there in my journey and supported me along the way,” Hollands said.

“As much as it is for me out here living my dream; it’s about giving back to the family and friends who are here tonight. To be able to share it with them and to be able to have them all in the rooms tonight is very special.”

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