One of the most stunning moments in the 2023 AFL Draft came when Geelong picked a player straight out of community football, from their own backyard, with Oliver Wiltshire taken with one of the final few picks at number 61 overall.
21-year-old Wiltshire enjoyed an outstanding 2023 season for Barwon Heads Football Netball Club in the Bellarine Football League, playing not far from the Cats' home ground GMHBA Stadium, which has become his new workplace. His 51-goal campaign in the strong community league this year helped to push his side to a preliminary final.
Wiltshire is a success story of his local area and club, having played most of his junior football for Barwon Heads. He played for Geelong Falcons in the Coates Talent League pathway competition in 2021 but otherwise has mainly honed his craft on local grounds in the Bellarine region and playing for his school, St Joseph's College, which is just down the road.
Geelong Cats Recruiting Manager Stephen Wells said the Cats were very happy to give Ollie his chance.
"Ollie had an opportunity at the Geelong Falcons a couple of years ago, we think his skill and football brain on display at Barwon Heads over the past couple of years has been outstanding and he deserves his chance," said Wells.
The man of the moment did his first media conference as a Geelong player in the days following the draft and said "it was an unreal feeling" to have his named called out on draft night.
"I've barracked for the Cats all my life, mum and dad have, I went to school just down the road at Joeys (St Joseph's) so I know this place pretty well and so rapt to be here," Wiltshire said.
Geelong legend Matthew Scarlett was an assistant coach at Barwon Heads and had encouraged Wiltshire to pursue his AFL dream. Wiltshire said he sensed there may be some interest after his 12-goal performance against Modewarre early in the season.
"After the Modewarre game... I kicked a few goals and had a few whispers coming my way and then a few games after that, had a few more.
"After Falcons I went down and played at Barwon Heads and I loved playing there, loved playing with all my mates down there and just played for the love of the game. Lucky enough that Scarlo has come down."
Wiltshire follows in the footsteps of new teammate Tom Stewart, who also played senior community football in the Geelong region before the Cats selected him.