VFL 2019: Tom O’Sullivan steps up from vice-captain to co-captain of Port Melbourne
Paul Amy, Caulfield Glen Eira Leader
February 22, 2019 2:00pm
When Tom O’Sullivan landed at Port Melbourne ahead of the 2013 VFL season, coach Gary Ayres said it was easy to imagine the newcomer taking the nickname “SoS’’.
It was a reference to O’Sullivan being the son of Shane, the long-time Carlton AFL administrator who also played a lot of good football for Caulfield and coached Oakleigh in the old VFA.
Quickly, O’Sullivan junior began making his own name in the game, as a clever and crafty onballer.
He wasn’t “SoS’’. He was just “Toss’’. Indeed, last Saturday when Ayres confirmed
O’Sullivan as co-captain of the club, he referred to him as “Tommy ‘Toss’ O’Sullivan’’.
It was another honour for a player who has assumed heart-and-soul status at the iconic club.
O’Sullivan, 27, will share the captaincy with his great mate Jordan Lisle, the first time Ayres has seen fit to split the role since he assumed the coaching position in 2008.
O’Sullivan has a keen appreciation of Port’s history and said it would be a thrill to follow his first three skippers at the Borough, John Baird, Toby Pinwill and Lisle, on to the honour board.
His father was one of the first people he rang with the news. Shane — who attends Port games whenever his commitments at Carlton allow, watching from the Norm Goss grandstand with his wife, Carol — was chuffed.
Before he joined the Borough, O’Sullivan trained at the Carlton-affiliated Northern Blues, where his uncle Garry was general manager.
He withdrew from the pre-season to concentrate on his cricket with Carlton, where he reached the Second XI.
O’Sullivan played APS football for Caulfield Grammar and at the end of the cricket season hooked up with Caulfield Grammarians in the VAFA.
Tom O’Sullivan (right) with Thomas O'Sullivan last year. Picture: Jenny Tserkezidis
A best and fairest won under the coaching of Stevie Lawrence in 2012 prompted him to have a dash at the VFL.
But he went to Port, not the Northern Blues.
“I probably felt I’d like to make it on my own merits, go to a club where dad or ‘Gazz’ weren’t involved,’’ he said.
“It would have been easier for all of us.
“If I played some good footy, I’d get a game on my own terms and no one could say I was getting a game off my name. Dad was fine about it. ‘Gazz’ was a bit dirty!’’
O’Sullivan played seven games in his first season at Port Melbourne and he’s been a senior regular since (he’s now up to 106).
Now he’s one of the Borough’s most consistent players, poaching the ball out of packs and shooting it off to teammates.
He figured in the 2017 premiership, has gained four team-of-the-year jumpers, represented his state and won the 2017 Frank Johnson Medal as the VFL’s best player in the match against the WAFL.
Last year he was runner-up in the club’s best and fairest.
“Best decision I ever made,’’ O’Sullivan said of joining Port.
“The club couldn’t suit me better. The whole stand-alone feel, the old blokes coming to watch games … nothing better.’’
Shane O’Sullivan agrees. He “could not stand’’ Port when he played in the VFA, but appreciates what the club has done for his son, with his football and his work opportunities as a plumber.
Shane O’Sullivan with Carlton great Kade Simpson.
He also understood his decision to go to the Borough and not Northern Blues.
“Brother Gazz and others tried hard to get him but he thought if he went there and got a game people would say, ‘Oh, your uncle’s there and your dad’s at Carlton’, that sort of thing. He wanted to play at a club where he’d get 22 chances every week and earn his spot.’’