JEFF STEPHENSON

AFTER six years at the biggest, loudest, wealthiest and best club in the nation “The Ox” is coming home.

Yes, Adam Oxley, has decided to sever his relations after a dramatic and whirlwind ride with Collingwood to come back and – in his words – repay some of the debt he feels he owes to Redland where he grew up and who gave him the start to what has developed into a fabulous career.

Adam was announced this week as the Bombers’ latest signing for 2020 and his addition to the ranks will provide a hugely significant boost to the club following an injury-riddled AFL career that saw him compile 34 games including some biggies on the biggest stage of all at the MCG against Essendon on Anzac Day (twice)  and Melbourne on the Queen’s birthday Monday.

Suddenly, playing in front of crowds approaching 90,000, Adam quickly understood what the AFL in AFL-centric Melbourne was all about.

How did he adjust?

“It was extremely daunting,” he said.’

“Moving interstate to a powerhouse that had been extremely successful for as long as I could remember was tough.

“But I managed to surround myself with good role models and found myself fitting right in extremely early.

And what of the supporters? After all, they are sometimes described as a law unto themselves.

“The supporters were extremely overwhelming at first, rocking up to training with fans screaming as we ran out, but it definitely became more normal as the years went on.

“They’re extremely passionate and loyal.”

That he was sidelined for all 2015 and 2017 and that Collingwood held on to him demonstrates the confidence the club held in the kid from the Redlands.

Redland coach Phil Carse is overjoyed Adam is returning to the club where it all started.

“We’ve all been extremely proud of Adam’s career at Collingwood which saw him play a significant amount of senior football in a really strong program,” Phil said.

“Progressing from our junior program and working at our club in junior development before he was drafted, Adam is a shining light for our pathway and is now really keen to invest back into his home club that he has a lot of love for.”

As for Adam, he’s eagerly looking forward to next season.

“I can’t wait. Getting back to my home and the fresh air of the Redlands is the change I need.

“Playing again with the football club that has given me so much in my life from the age of seven to 21 – well, it’s a big honour for me to be able to give something back.”

His stay at Collingwood was tinged with a roller-coaster of emotions.

The excitement of being named a “sub” on his debut in that Queen’s Birthday match at the MCG, not knowing when or if he would take the ground and then eventually being given his chance.

The loneliness, frustration and agitation of being injured – the rolled ankle that required surgery and forced him to miss all of 2014, the groin injury in 2017 that knocked him around and again ruled him out for the season.

The comeback in 2018 when the Magpies kept him on the rookie list when they might have discarded him and when he again found himself playing with a power team that eventually went on to a grand final.

He scaled the dizziest of heights in his third year when injury-free and fighting fit he assumed the mantle of sweeper across half-back and through the wing, using his clever reading of the play, precision marking and superb disposal skills to announce himself as a fully-fledged AFL player.

Adam has always had to overcome his light-framed body – particularly in evidence during his younger days keeping him out of State teams until he was 18 – by expressing extreme confidence in his attack on the ball and then using it to best advantage.

It’s a trait he has carried with him always.

His hardest days (and loneliest) were when he was undergoing rehabilitation following those injuries we spoke about earlier.

“Yeah, they’re the darkest – that’s for sure. You’re still part of the group, but while the rest are laughing and mucking around and training and you’re somewhere else – that was tough.

“When you’re the only one in the altitude room – yeah, not much fun.

“But there was always the motivation of knowing there were others going through it too and we formed a special bond.

“You knew that in six or so weeks’ time you’d hopefully be back out there again contributing to the team.”

He’ll always have the friendships he’s carved – like with Steele Sidebottom – the two of them being sports-mad and pushing themselves as far as is possible whether it be on the golf course or whatever sporting endeavour confronts them.

So, know it’s back to where it started – way back, when as a seven-year-old his parents Peter and Kathy moved to the Redlands from Canberra.

He’ll be back among the friends and family who have encouraged him and forged the path that drove him to the pinnacle.

And back with some of those teammates he previously played with – like Thommo and Blake and meeting up again with Salts.

It’ll be great and his presence and experience will be exactly what the Redland doctor has ordered.

We’ll let Phil have the last word: “Ox is a supremely skilled player who makes decisions with the ball in hand and reads it exceptionally well off the boot.

“We know how well Adam can play across half-back, but he also has the flexibility of pushing up onto a wing or into the forward 50 with his ability both in the air and on the ground.

“Adam also brings tremendous character to our program and is a really genuine person we can all learn from.

“We can’t wait to have Oxy back in the red and black in what I think will be an exciting period for the club moving forward.”

Note: Richmond supporters might not agree with the opening paragraph. Well, that’s just too bad!

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