Ollie Hollands knew he was up for a fight.
Easily one of the best runners of the entire 2022 draft crop, the Murray Bushrangers midfielder’s capabilities were set to be put to the test at the AFL draft combine in October.
“I heard before the time trial Jason Gillbee and Josh Weddle were the ones keen to have a good time trial, so I just tried to hang with those boys and see how I went,” Hollands recalled to foxfooty.com.au.
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“I’m competitive myself so I got stuck in there, there was about 200 or 300 metres to go and I thought I could maybe get Jason.
“We ended up finishing on the line together which was nice.”
Both Hollands and Gillbee finished with a time of five minutes and 54 seconds, underscoring the immense running power of both.
“It’s always been there, the running ability. As a kid I did national athletics and cross country and I’ve always been a bit of a runner. I saw it as one of my strengths,” Hollands said.
“Not only did I just want it to be a strength, I wanted it to be a real weapon of my game. I was really adamant I wanted to put the work in over the covid year where there was a bit of time away.
“I had Jack Ziebell come to my footy club as a kid, he talked about being a good runner and how you’ve got to learn to love running.
“I’ve sort of had that driven into me over the years and it’s definitely played a role in my approach to it all.”
Hollands entered 2022 with a lot of promise and has delivered in spades throughout, with his running capacity through the midfield standing out to recruiters.
It’s coupled with an impressive desire to run both ways, which has made his work rate all the more noticeable and has put him into top-15 contention at this year’s draft.
Ziebell’s message clearly resonated with Hollands, but he also has help at the other end of the AFL spectrum, with older brother Elijah forging a career at Gold Coast.
Hollands joined the Suns via pick No.7 in the 2020 draft while recovering from an ACL injury, working incredibly hard to earn his AFL debut in round 19 this year, which marked the first of five straight games to end the season.
“It’s been so knowledgeable to watch him go throughout that draft process. I’ve learned everyone’s journey is different,” Ollie reflected.
“For Elijah, he came into the system being a fairly high draft prospect. Whether it be coming into the system and playing straight away or having to be persistent with injury and having to wait a lot of time to make your debut.
“Seeing Elijah’s perspective that it takes a lot of time to play your first game and you’ve got to be able to earn your spot.
“Even the off-field stuff Elijah has gone through, making sure you’re doing the right rehab and eating and drinking the right things, the whole professionalism side of things has been good to learn about through Elijah.”
Hollands has added to his off-field work via Movember, acting as one of several ambassadors for Hemisphere Management to try and raise funds and awareness for men’s health.
Openness about mental health has been growing in recent years within the AFL industry, to the point where several prospective draftees have been open about their struggles.
“I think it’s been great that a lot of the boys have been able to reach out and really spread awareness,” Hollands said, pointing to the example of fellow draftee hopeful Bailey Humphrey as a standout example.
“It is really good to see because it’s really important to speak up when times have been tough.”