OLLIE Wines has missed football before.
Whilehe has played every game in five of his AFL seasons, Wines sat out nine games in 2015 with a shoulder injury.
But he has never had a season quite so frustrating – on or off the field – as 2019.
In a season where he – along with Tom Jonas – became the first co-captains in the history of Port Adelaide Football Club, the 24-year-old spent near half season on the sidelines as injuries took their toll.
While he had dealt with issues with his body before, for the first time in his career Wines was subjected to the darker side of football, as media circled and questions were asked about how he ended up in this position.
One of the most respected young midfielders in the competition, with that signature crash and bash style of winning the ball, and his team-first attitude, was suddenly dealing with social media backlash and mainstream journalists attacking.
“It was tough to have those external voices sort of questioning my actions,” he said.
“It’s been as frustrating a season as I’ve had, I don’t want it to happen again. I want to be able to be out there with my teammates leading my football club every week.”
A pre-season skiing accident became the talk of Adelaide media after Wines injured his shoulder.
Much to the happiness of their then captain-in-waiting, Port Adelaide immediately made a public defence of their star.
“The greatest thing for me was having the club come out immediately and being in my corner,” he said.
“To have them say they understood the person they were drafting, that I’d grown up doing this and they were going to support me through it meant a lot.
“(As a playing group) it’s why we all love the club. The support we get to live our lives and to be ourselves, it comes from everyone. A lot of the boys had a bit of sympathy for what had happened, we all do things like skiing or playing cricket and those kind of things during summer, and I was the first one to cop an injury from it.
“Those things are probably bound to happen, every now and then you get a bit of bad luck. But we aren’t pushing the limits, we understand we are footballers first and it’s our priority, but the club also wants us to live our lives.
‘‘As much as I will continue to have a ski every now and again, I’ve got to make a few changes with timing so I don’t put my season at risk like I did last year.”
While the injury would keep Wines sidelined early in the season, Port held the faith, naming him one of its captains.
Already vice-captain, Wines had been the man in waiting, and found the previous experience as a leader made his transition to an AFL captain “pretty seamless”.
“The club has given me a lot of opportunities through my time to further myself as a leader and that has really helped me to develop as a person, and in combination with Tommy (Jonas) who I get along incredibly well with lets us bounce ideas off each other, which was really helpful.
“I found the toughest part was how many games I missed with injuries. It’s hard to have the sort of profound impact on the playing group when you aren’t out there. For me, the best form of leadership you can have is setting the example when you are out there on the field.
“But I found other ways to have the impact when I wasn’t on the field, and I was able to get a lot out of it and further develop myself as a leader.”
Wines still featured in 12 matches for 2019 season, with his 6-6 win loss record a telling reflection of his club’s form – the Power finished the year with 11 wins, missing the finals by a single game.
While Wines expects his side to get better in 2020, he couldn’t hide, let alone deny, his disappointment.
“We would have loved to have been there in September,” he said.
“The past two seasons we weren’t able to crack the top eight. We were able to beat a lot of the top teams at stages throughout the season – West Coast and Geelong for example – but we had games where we went in as favourites and would get done which was really disappointing.
“We have to make sure we don’t have those lapses. We can’t have it become a trend for our side.”
While the side ended their year on a disappointing note, there were still positive signs for Wines to take away from the year.
“I think round one is the game I look back on with the most fondness,” he said.
“I was in coaches box and was watching everything we had worked on fall into place. We were on the G against a highly touted Melbourne (the Demons had been expected to be a top four side entering the season, with some touting them a premiership hopeful) and we were able to touch them up.
“Seeing our young guys, the guys who had been traded in, everything paid off for us, so we had really high hopes about what the season was going to look like from there.”
But the season would not pan out from there, and Wines would be forced to sit at home come September.
Though he won’t be watching much of the AFL finals series.
“I find it really hard to watch,” he said.
“Knowing you aren’t getting a chance to play is hard, so I don’t take a lot of it in. I watched the first quarter on Thursday night, but switched it off after that. It’s hard to escape it though. If you’re around Victoria or South Australia, it’s everywhere so you are always switched into what is going on.
“I think Richmond is going to be the team to beat from here. Their game plan is built for winning finals footy, they’ve been there before as well so they have the experience.”
But while he won’t be watching as much AFL footy, he will be keeping a close eye on his beloved green and white as Echuca ramps up towards a potential GVL flag.
And Wines has the belief his former club can conquer the almighty Kyabram.
“I really think we can,” he said.
“I think the mental side of things may play on Ky a bit. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t beat them last week because I think any side is going to struggle to beat them twice. We have to get the next two wins to get there so it isn’t going to be easy. But if they get there, it will possibly plant a few question marks in the heads of the Ky boys about whether they can get it done.”