NT Thunder and AFL Northern Territory are delighted with today’s news that Tony Olango is off to the West Coast Eagles after being selected as a rookie with pick number 27 in the NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
Olango, a St Mary’s player in the NTFL debuted for Thunder against Sydney Uni in Round 15, 2016 and played one more senior game that season while balancing his commitments with national Under 18 (U18) Thunder Academy and Allies duties.
His performances in the U18 Championships led to his invitation to the AFL National Draft Combine in October 2016, where he put in a solid testing performance finishing fifth in the running vertical jump and eight in the 20-metre sprint.
The then 18-year-old, who stands at 201cm, missed out on AFL club selection, which was a bonus for NT Thunder as we were able to sign him for the 2017 NEAFL season.
While playing in 2017 Olango was signed by the Hawthorn Football Club as a Next Generation Academy player and was invited to train and play with their VFL-affiliated side.
The tall timber was a consistent player for Thunder in the second half of the 2017 NEAFL season balancing his involvement in the Northern Territory Under 18s State Academy Series, with his Hawthorn commitment and 12 NEAFL games.
The Kenyan-born ruckman who came to Australia with his family as a refugee was at home on Monday and watching River Cottages Australia on TV when his afternoon was interrupted.
“Jimmy (Driscoll – NT Academy head coach) called me up and started talking a bit of smack and he told me the news and that’s how I found out,” Olango said.
“I actually didn’t believe it at first and then I started getting phone calls and messages from people.
“It hasn’t really sunk in and it probably won’t until I’m over there (in Perth),” he said.
Bucking his family’s trend and love for the Eagles, Olango grew up a Fremantle supporter and said he was grateful for any opportunity he got.
“I want to be known as a hard worker and a humble kid, always up for a challenge,” he said.
NT Thunder Head Coach, who also coached Tony through his U18 Academy and National Championships couldn’t have been prouder.
“When Tony missed out last year he very quickly turned his focus and attention to what he needed to improve and what he needed to do to get better and he showed that throughout the Thunder season and today is the reward for his hard work,” Hodges said.
“Tony has been really persistent and has shown a lot of resilience in preparing himself to be a professional athlete, so we think he’s in a really good position now to go down there (Perth) and showcase his talents.
“He’s a very smart young man and very motivated to go to the next level so we are absolutely thrilled he gets this opportunity,” he said.
National Recruiting Manager at the West Coast Eagles Football Club, Rohan O’Brien said it was no secret the club was interested in Tony last year but thought a little bit more time wouldn’t do him any harm.
“We’ve watched Tony for a couple of years now and he offers a fair bit as a young ruckman and they obviously take a little bit of time to develop, so with that in mind we wanted to give him a little bit of time.
“He has great athleticism and he competes really well…and so when the opportunity came up again we were really glad to draft him,” O’Brien said.
As for his Thunder and NT footy family, Olango had one quick message before he jumps on the plane tomorrow; “Good luck to all the boys for next season and I’ll miss you all,” he said with a huge smile on his face.