Gold Coast Suns young gun and Timberland ambassador Jaeger O’Meara opens up about his off-season adventures in America, his hopes for the 2016 season and the troublesome knee injury that kept him sidelined for 2015, in an exclusive piece for aflplayers.com.au, brought to you by Timberland.
From a footy perspective, 2015 was a pretty frustrating season.
Because I spent the entire season out injured, I was keen to move onto next year as soon as 2015 was formally over.
The day after our Best and Fairest, I jumped on a plane with my girlfriend Rhiannon and headed to the USA. It was the perfect way to clear my head and reset before getting into pre-season training.
We flew into Los Angeles, took a look around Malibu Beach and adjusted to driving on the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) side of the road, making our way from LA to San Francisco, where we stayed for three nights.
We enjoyed California, but our trip went to a new level once we flew into New York.
New York is a city that’s always been hyped up but, even still, it exceeded my expectations.
There was just so much to do. We stayed for nine nights but could’ve spent a lot longer there. I’m already thinking about getting back there next year.
We stayed in West Village, a place I’d love to live one day. We arrived at 11pm on a Friday night to find people everywhere and a fantastic buzz around.
Rhiannon and I weren’t quite sure what we were doing or where we were going, so it was great to be surrounded by friendly people who were happy to help us out and offer advice. The fact they loved the Aussie accent made life easier, too.
There’s plenty of great food in New York, but if I was to pick one place to recommend, it’d have to be ‘Beauty and Essex’ on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
I loved the energy in the bar before dinner. Once we were seated, we were told to order the dumplings and the apple and kale salad. They were both unbelievable.
It was the only restaurant we went to twice.
Going to my first NFL game was another highlight.
Since I did my knee, I’ve been following New York Giants captain Victor Cruz, who did the same injury as me – one that’s pretty rare in the AFL. It was an unbelievable experience seeing the Giants take on the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium, even though Cruz is still sidelined through injury.
The atmosphere is pretty different to an AFL game. More than 95 percent of the crowd goes for the home team, so spectators tend to interact with each other a lot more than they do at the footy.
We spent a lot of time walking around New York and, needless to say, my troublesome knee held up okay.
Everything’s going smoothly with my rehabilitation, and I’m on track to return at the start of the season. Whether it’s Round 1 or Round 5, I’m not fussed. I just want to make sure I get it right.
We had a few new midfielders step up in 2015, so I’m looking forward to slotting in, along with guys like Gary Ablett, David Swallow and Dion Prestia, who also missed most of 2015 through injury.
With our midfield depth, I might have to develop other areas of my game over the pre-season and learn how to be more damaging going forward, or to play off the wing or halfback. I’ll speak to the coaches when I get back to the footy club and see where they want me to play and pinch-hit.
I loved my time in America, but I can’t wait to get back to the club and get around the boys. Hopefully everything goes to plan and I can get back to playing some decent footy next year.
As for returning to America? Like they say in footy, there’s always next year.