Gary O'Donnell (footballer)

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Gary O'Donnell
Personal information
Full name Gary O'Donnell
Date of birth (1965-05-12) 12 May 1965 (age 51)
Original team(s) North Ringwood (EFL)
Height 181 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Weight 85 kg (187 lb)
Position(s) Midfielder
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1987–1998 Essendon 243 (88)
Representative team honours
Years Team Games (Goals)
Victoria 9
Coaching career3
Years Club Games (W–L–D)
2006 Essendon 1 (0–0–1)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1998.
3 Coaching statistics correct as of 2006.
Career highlights
Sources: AFL Tables,

Gary O'Donnell (born 12 May 1965) is a former Australian rules footballer who played 243 games for the Essendon Football Club between 1987 and 1998.[1] He is currently serving as the Offensive Strategy Coach at the Brisbane Lions.[2]

O'Donnell's start at football didn't come easy: he played nearly 50 reserve grade matches before being selected to make his debut in the last game of the 1987 season. From there he held down a steady place in the side, first as a defender, then later developing into a tagging midfielder who was capable of getting the football as well as keeping an opposition player quiet. At his peak, O'Donnell was regarded as one of the most consistent players in the competition, with commentators often stating that he "never plays a bad game".

Underlining this consistency is his record in the club best-and-fairest: O'Donnell finished in the top three six years in a row, winning it in 1993, a premiership year for the Bombers. He also won the Michael Tuck Medal in 1994 as the best player in the pre-season grand final. Additionally, O'Donnell represented Victoria nine times in state of origin football.

O'Donnell was always regarded as one of the most astute thinkers in the game, and was rewarded with the captaincy for the 1996 and 1997 seasons. He reputation was further enhanced when after retirement he took up an assistant coaching role with the Brisbane Lions. His tactical insight was a key part of the Lions' rise up the ladder, culminating in three premierships from 2001 to 2003.

After Brisbane's grand final loss in 2004, Gary O'Donnell announced that he would be returning to Essendon in 2005 as an assistant coach to Kevin Sheedy. On 22 July 2006, O'Donnell coached Essendon for one match due to the absence of head coach Kevin Sheedy, who injured his shoulder in a collision with defender Dean Solomon. Essendon drew with long-time rivals Carlton to break its long-losing streak of 14. Effectively, O'Donnell has coached Essendon for 0 wins, 0 losses and a draw.

Some people had speculated that O'Donnell's return to Essendon indicated that he was the preferred replacement for Sheedy upon the latter's retirement, but O'Donnell denied this, and on 27 September 2007 it was announced that Matthew Knights would be Sheedy's successor.

In October 2010, it was announced that O'Donnell was returning to the Brisbane Lions as an assistant coach to Michael Voss.[3]

O'Donnell is a descendant of the Rankins, who were champion footballers of the Geelong Football Club.


  1. ^ Ballantyne, Adrian (19 October 2010). "Garry O'Donnell returns to Brisbane after leaving Bombers". Herald Sun. Melbourne. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  2. ^ "Vero Coaching Group". Brisbane Lions. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "O'Donnell re-joins the Lions". 18 October 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2008. 

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