SYDNEY SWANS FC
Born: 26 September 1989
Junior Club: -
Senior Club: -
Schools: Marist College (Ashgrove)
Regional Selection: -
Queensland Selection: -
Draft Details: Unregistered Player Selection - 2008 Rookie Draft
AFL Debut: -
Jumper Number: 44
AT A GLANCE: Jake Orreal, like Lachlan Keeffe, is an AFL miracle waiting to happen. He was signed on a two-year rookie contract by the Sydney Swans in May '07 after playing just three games of AFL in his life. He was spotted at a camp for emerging athletes at the Australian Institute of Sport in November 2006 and joined the AFLQ Rookie Search Program. In March '07 he played three games for the Western Taipans in the Queensland U18 Championships before he gave up football to concentrate on his studies. He had, however, not gone unnoticed. And because he has not been a registered AFL player for the previous three years – or in Orreal’s case ever – he was not required to go through the normal draft process. He was secretly signed mid-year.
His preparation for his 2008 introduction to the Swans scene was disrupted by a bout of glandular fever which kept him off the track for six weeks, but on his return he impressed Swans officials with his competitiveness in a reserves side which won the AFL Canberra grand final with a goal after the siren. He had his first senior outing in the 2009 NAB Cup against Port Adelaide in Canberra on Sunday 22 February 2009, and did enough through the 2009 season, still playing with the Reserves in the ACT competition, to earn a 12-month rookie contract extension for 2010. The Orreal story is one that will forever have a special place in AFL football history. It was a first and a true football fairytale in which the then 205cm 18-year-old was snapped up by the Swans. For six months it was a secret that only a handful of Swans people, the would-be ruckman and his immediate family knew. He'd committed to the Swans and vice-versa in May 2007 but it wasn't 'official' until October '07 and didn't take effect until he headed to Sydney to begin a two-year rookie contract on 5 November '07. It is an extraordinary chapter in the sporting escapades of a young man who had excelled in a myriad of sports and yet chose to focus his efforts on which in which he has no background.
The multi-talented and super-athletic Orreal was tempted by a volleyball scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, was a member of the QAS beach volleyball squad, represented Brisbane in basketball, was a standout track and field athlete and also played rugby league, rugby union and soccer. And virtually not football. He was a 2006 graduate of the rugby-dominated Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane which counts among its favorite sons former Australian rugby captain John Eales and Test cricket champion Matthew Hayden, and, ironically, Lachlan Keeffe, a young Gympie giant who would be signed by Collingwood under the same recruiting loophole soon after. Orreal had been chosen in the preliminary Queensland U18 squad after the 2007 State Championships in March. But he chose to put a Bachelor of Business at QUT ahead of football and a fortnight later told AFL Queensland Talent Manager Mark Browning he wouldn't be playing football. Instead the quietly-spoken teenager planned to work part-time through 2007 at McDonalds and Kmart while studying. But a phone call from the Swans changed all that. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and although he didn't accept it on the spot it didn't take long for Orreal to confirm a significant change in his life direction.
After committing to the Swans he trained privately and secretly for six months under Craig Starcevich, a former Collingwood AFL premiership player and Brisbane Lions triple premiership fitness coach who had taken on a full-time fitness role coach with the Queensland Roar A-League soccer side. Why the punt? “We look more and more at someone like Dean Cox (West Coast Eagles and All-Australian ruckman) as the premier ruckman in the competition and see a big, mobile type who can really cover the ground," explained Swans recruiting manager and ex-captain Stuart Maxfield. "Not for one moment are we comparing the two but in the brief time we saw Jake we saw a young guy with some real athletic ability. He didn't do a lot in the games we saw in terms of pure football but he showed he's got some real athletic attributes. We know and he knows he's got a long way to go to become an AFL footballer but we reckon he's got a pretty fair base and some genuine athletic tools to work with," said Maxfield.
Orreal, the middle of three children and the only son of Leo and Paula Orreal of Arana Hills in Brisbane's north-west, was born in Brisbane on 26 September 1989 - AFL grand final week. Home in his early years was determined by his father's army postings and he spent time in Wagga (twice), Sydney, Townsville and Perth before settling in Brisbane in 2002. Wherever he went a sporting love affair followed. He turned his hand to just about everything in Little Athletics from U5s to U15s and was a State medalist in 400m, long jump, high jump and triple jump as a youngster. He played rugby league at U9s, soccer at U10s and U11s and rugby union from U12s to U15s at school and club level. In grade eight he took up basketball and in Grade 11 added volleyball to his sporting repertoire. So quickly did he take to volleyball that in his first year he was a Queensland U17 representative. A place in the QAS beach volleyball squad followed and an AIS scholarship was the next step but instead he chose to finish his schooling in Brisbane. He attended an emerging athletes camp at the AIS in Canberra in November 2006, from where one thing led to another. The phone call from the Swans stunned him. "I was blown away - I didn't even really understand the game and an AFL club was ringing me up. I didn't just say yes - it took a day or so - but I knew straight away what a great opportunity it is," he said, having flown to Sydney to inspect the Swans SCG training facilities. He undertook a crash course in AFL football, watching a lot AFL DVD's supplied by the club. He caught the Swans on television whenever he could, and saw his first AFL game live between Sydney and Brisbane at the Gabba in round 20 of the 2007 season, when Lions captain Jonathan Brown kicked a last-minute goal on the siren for a draw. The rest, as they say, is history. Or at least Orreal is hoping it will be.