Harry O, who do you think you are?


by Jeff Dowsing

It’s come to my attention there’s a growing band of footy fans out there hating on Collingwood’s Harry O’Brien.  And perhaps surprisingly, based on various fan forums, blogs and social media platforms, Magpie supporters count among the premiership player’s harshest critics.  I’d repeat the meatier nuggets of intelligentsia here but for the profanities and my unwillingness to arouse the interest of legal eagles.

But really, I’m actually staggered the ‘Big O’ (should that be the ‘Big Zero’?) doesn’t have more haters lining up to whack him.

I mean, to think an AFL player has the temerity to walk and chew gum at the same time.  What is with all this pinko making a difference, power through positivity piffle? Pfffft to that I say!

As so many couch critics have pointed out, clearly the Brazilian born defender’s sub par 2011 was due to spinning too many plates, and the wrong ones at that (so what if he never missed a training session and inflicted freezing ice baths upon himself every day for recovery).

And what’s with going back to your ancestral roots and visiting Third World countries between seasons?  Our indigenous football code is fairly important to a portion of Australia’s mostly well fed population of 25 million. Surely a more pressing concern than broadening one’s understanding of starvation, health and education issues facing humanity’s enormous underclass?

Then there’s the attempt to meet President Obama and the actual media gigs with the Dalai Lama and Julia Gillard.  And now O’Brien’s jumped aboard the Kony express, of course.  He even responds to abusive messages positively.  What’s next – venturing into the jungle over the mid season bye and talking down the Ugandan guerrilla army leader with passages from the Bible?

By all means save the world Harry, but now is not the time for such unAustralian behaviour.  As a professional footballer, one’s ample free time should be spent watching Fox Sports, playing golf and cutting a swathe through Melbourne’s willing female population.   Some good old fashioned counseling is in order.  Time to man up and get jaded, cynical and materialistic.  A binge drinking and recreational drug habit wouldn’t hurt either.

If ever there’s a Magpie candidate for a GWS trade, the 2010 All-Australian is it.  Collingwood can’t afford wasting valuable cap space on mere back flankers whom young and impressionable rookies might glean some insight.  Just because Harry overcame considerable racism, an unusual and diverse background, (draft) rejection and more recently personal tragedy, he thinks there’s substance to his triumph against the odds story.

As for those Twitter and Facebook quotes designed to help young fans and inspire today’s youth to achieve something worthwhile…  Please.  Just stick to telling us which Richmond cafes sling you a free feed and Twitpic your bored teammates sitting around Adelaide airport.  Less Confucious and Chopra, more apathy and narcissism, OK?

Want to make the people who think they matter happy H?  Try playing tighter on your man, ditch the destructive, exhilarating runs out of defence, and above all just spend every waking hour focused on the ‘Pies winning another bloody flag will ya!

About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. John Butler says


  2. Danielle Eid says

    I think Harry is a great bloke.
    He is proof that intellectual, cultured footy players do exist.

  3. Love the sarcasm Jeff and totally agree with you Danni. Why can’t people think and play football at the same time? HARRY FOR PM !!!

  4. I like that Harry O’Brien reads books on Eastern Religion that make the concept of winning a Premiership seem empty and unimportant… he perhaps had a greater influence at Collingwood last year than we appreciate.

  5. And Litza, for that I am truly thankful.

  6. It seems somehow appropriate that HARRY O’BRIEN is an anagram of HAIRY, REBORN.

  7. John Harms says

    Nathan Buckley will understand Harry O better than Mick Malthouse did. Discuss.

  8. Maybe the Melbourne president could interview him for a docco like Australian Story.

    Get the ‘fair enough scoop’ on why Harry breaks club tradition and is not a bogan.

    He could all of a sudden be an authority on the sensitivity of cultural differences just like Eddie.

    No chance of a conflict of interest, Eddie said, and the precident has been set regarding not adhering to appropriate club protocols.

    I can’t wait till the next Pie player faux pas. Let the media crall over it.

    You bet I’m grumpy!

  9. “Nathan Buckley will understand Harry O better than Mick Malthouse did. Discuss.”

    You might be right, JTH. Perhaps Mick and Harry are too much alike in their outlook on various philosophies and Bucks will be able to view Harry through more of a ‘clear glass’ pane than the multi-layered Malthouse prism.

    (I have no idea what I’m talking about.)

  10. Damn straight, Jeff. What you said.

  11. Litza, in Eastern philosophy “empty” is more akin to “interconnected” and “every thing” (i.e. empty of being a separate disconnected “thing”) rather than nihilistic “nothingness”. Even though I live above the football Mason Dixon line, it sounds like this fellow has a holistic approach to his football, integrating it with the rest of his life. That can only be a good thing! And being a Manly supporter, I understand the Collingwood hate/jealousy thing! ;)

  12. Now thats an essay topic jth! Not the jibberish topics given for psych essays!
    Hmmm i like to think bucks will be able to understand harry o. Buckley is a smart bloke, i can tell :)

  13. Thanks Phil – thankfully Harry got the sarcasm too and likes the rant. Somehow a few didn’t (get the sarcasm)!

    Having read Bucks’ book and heard him speak often enough I’m prepared to say he gets Confucius, even if he doesn’t feel the need to pore over it. And given his own diverse upbringing and early struggles, I don’t think he’d have a problem with H, and vice versa.

  14. Great piece,

    If only “those who think they matter,” understood sarcasm!

  15. JTH – Nathan Buckley will not understand Harry O better than Malthouse because he is too Buzz Lightyear and not enough Woody.

  16. Dips – not even a little bit Woody? Maybe Colling-Woody?

  17. Danni, re “He is proof that intellectual, cultured footy players do exist.” Harry might just be the exception that proves the rule. ;-)

  18. Gigs- luke ball, chris dawes chyeahhh ;)

  19. Dave Nadel says

    The player that Harry most reminds me of is Jim Stynes. He started as an outsider because of his background but stayed an outsider because he thinks beyond the game. And, like Jimmy, Michael Long and David Wirrpanda, Harry decided to use his football status to make some positive changes beyond the game. We at Collingwood are very proud of him.

  20. Personally, I’m very disappointed in Harry. He’s making it very hard for those of us who are doing our utmost to perpetuate the myth of the Collingwood stereotype.

  21. Andrew Else says

    I think Ive heard about his ‘thinking chair’ one too many times.

    Your points about him being a player who offers kids a broader range of views is well made though.

  22. Does that mean you are not proud of all the others Dave?

  23. Excellent point Danielle re Luke Ball & Chris Dawes.

    Really, the grade point average would probably be pretty similar across all the clubs. For players’ at least. Might even be surprised by the fans.

  24. Dave Nadel says

    Of course I am Phanto, but Harry O is special.

  25. Richard Naco says

    I find it hard to have anything but unqualified admiration for the likes of Harry O’Brien & Bob Murphy.

    It’d be a great day for us all when these blokes are the rule rather than the exception.

  26. haiku bob says

    bux was harry’s mentor on his arrival at the club. it was clear very early on that harry would, at the very least, get the best out of himself as a footballer. but perhaps there was more to the relationship.

  27. Mark Doyle says

    The most interesting aspect of the philosophy and lifestyle of blokes such as Harry O’Brien, Bob Murphy and my favourite Brent Crosswell is that they represent the small precentage of football supporters and Australian society who are thinkers rather than task oriented people. These blokes are generally smart enough to cope with the task oriented philosophy of having a successful career as a professional sportsman. I think Harry O’Brien had a high level of self motivation to be a professional footballer; he was not drafted and came to Melbourne at his own expense and did a pre-season training with Collingwood which resulted in a rookie draft selection and eventual senior list promotion and premiership player.

  28. Peter Baulderstone says

    I hope the Pies trade Harry O to GWS. I like watching him as a footballer. I admire him as a person. We can’t have that. I thought Dawes was a big log. Jason Statham on steroids. Then I saw him interviewed and realised he was whip smart. That worried me to, until I saw his GF contribution to Collingwood’s loss. Made me like him more.

  29. Apparently it is agreed that Harry is a wonderful well-rounded human being. Personally, as a footballer, i think he is over-rated and far too loose in defence. Too many times his ambition exceeds his ability.

  30. Harry plays high risk – high reward footy, no doubt. So if he’s off form through whatever reason, and he was at times last year, then he does really stand out. Confidence levels and decision making are crucial to his game. That he also looks like Predator with his physique and dreadlocks magnifies the good and the bad.

    But I’m not sure anyone who watched him week-in week-out over 2009-10 could say he’s overrated, his impact on the team was significant. Top 5 in the B & F both years if memory serves.

    What I do find annoying is that when a player like O’Brien or Murphy is struggling, all of a sudden their off field activities/personality is to blame and the old tall poppy syndrome rears its head.

  31. Dave Nadel says

    Your last sentence says it all, Jeff. Unfortunately there are some footy fans who would prefer their footballers, athletic, obedient, skilled but otherwise silent and dumb. I don’t agree with them.

  32. Footballers, who are good on the ground, with a social conscience to match don’t appear that often; unforunately. Peter Keenan, Brent Crosswell, Ted Hopkins (good on the ground for at least one game , and what a game it was), all have made positive impacts. Phil Cleary, though he did not go beyond the VFA is another fine example. Cricketers, a bit less so. Hang on this reminds me of my article last year on Frank Hyett, but that’s another story.

  33. I lyk hary oBrine. Hes gud for owr club.
    A grate Collingwood playr and verry intelygent.
    Jus lyke owr suphortrs.

    Go the Pies!

  34. watt price tully says

    I’m just wild about Harry.
    Another thinking feeling, sensitive, intelligent, articulate & kind Magpie.
    He simply reflects the broad church, synagogue, mosque & temple that is Collingwood.
    A person who believes in social justice & what better symbol of social justice can there be than winning the flag in 2012 for Harry, for Collingwood, for Collingwood supporters, for world peace & harmony.
    I’m just wild about Harry

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