Ollie Hollands knew he was ready for a fight.
Easily one of the best runners in the entire 2022 draft crop, the Murray Bushrangers midfielder’s abilities were to be tested at the AFL draft combine in October.
“I heard before the time trial that Jason Gillbee and Josh Weddle were keen to have a good time, so I just tried to hang with those guys and see how I went,” Hollands recalled to foxfooty.com.au.
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“I’m competitive myself so I stuck in there with about 200 or 300 meters to go and I thought I could get Jason.
“We finished the line together, which was nice.”
Both Hollands and Gillbee finished the race in five minutes and 54 seconds, highlighting the great running power of both.
“It’s always been there, the ability to run. As a child I was involved in national track and field and cross country and I was always a bit of a runner. I saw it as one of my strengths,” Hollands said.
“I didn’t just want it to be a strength, I wanted it to be a real weapon in my game. I was very adamant that I wanted to put the work where there was some time in the year of covid.
“When I was a kid, Jack Ziebell came to my football club and he talked about being a good runner and how you have to learn to love running.
“It kind of rubbed off on me over the years and definitely played a role in my approach to all of this.”
Hollands entered 2022 with plenty of promise and has delivered on it all with his midfield performance in the eyes of recruits.
That, combined with an impressive willingness to run both ways, made his work rate even more noticeable and landed him in the top 15 in this year’s draft.
Ziebel’s message clearly resonated with Hollands, but he also helped at the other end of the AFL spectrum, with older brother Ilyas building a career on the Gold Coast.
Hollands joined the Suns via the No.7 pick in the 2020 draft while recovering from an ACL injury and produced an incredible performance to earn his AFL debut in round 19 this year, marking the first of five consecutive games to end the season.
“It was very enlightening to watch him go through this project process. I learned that everyone’s journey is different,” reflected Ollie.
“For Ilyas, he came into the system as a fairly high draft prospect. Whether it’s to come in and play right away, or to stick with an injury and wait a long time to make his debut.
“We see from Ilyas’ perspective that it takes a long time to play your first game and you have to be able to earn your place.
“Even what Ilyas went through off the field, making sure you’re rehabbing right and eating and drinking the right things, the whole professional side of things, it’s been good to learn through Ilyas.”
Hollands has added to his outreach through Movember, acting as one of several ambassadors for the Hemisphere to raise funds and awareness for men’s health.
Openness about mental health has been on the rise in the AFL industry in recent years, with several potential draftees speaking openly about their struggles.
“I think it’s been great to have a lot of guys reach out and really spread awareness,” Hollands said, pointing to draft hopeful Bailey Humphrey as a notable example.
“It’s really good to see because it’s really important to speak up in difficult times.”