Season Review: Kyle O’Donnell
After nearly two years in the rugby league wilderness, up and coming front rower Kyle O’Donnell returned to the NRL spotlight and earned a contract extension in the process due to his promising performances.
O’Donnell, younger brother of former Australian Test forward Luke, arrived in the Nation’s Capital in 2014 in search of a fresh start after failing to break into the Newcastle Knights and Penrith Panthers NRL sides.
Prior to this year, O’Donnell had played in just the one NRL match, albeit one that he would much rather forget.
After representing the NSW Residents representative side a few weeks earlier, O’Donnell’s was chosen to make his first grade debut in Round 18, 2012 when the Knights took on the might of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Unfortunately, O’Donnell’s debut lasted just seven minutes when he was ‘welcomed to first grade’ by English powerhouse Sam Burgess.
In a testament to his resolve and developing ability, O’Donnell made amends for this forgettable debut when Coach Ricky Stuart selected him to make his Raiders debut in Round 5 against his club from 2013, the Panthers.
O’Donnell was impressive in his 30 minute spell, running for over 100 metres and compiling 21 hard-hitting tackles in the narrow 12-6 loss.
Despite the quality of his first appearance in lime green, O’Donnell was relegated to the VB NSW Cup the following week after Shannon Boyd returned from injury.
Rather than letting his demotion affect his attitude, O’Donnell returned to Mounties and continued to work hard on his game. His work ethic and ability to consume coaching advice and then implement it out on the field with ease drew specific praise from transitional coach Brett Kimmorely.
O’Donnell’s debut match for the Raiders proved that he could handle first grade the arena and his training ethic conveyed that he will continue to develop with every subsequent appearance.
It was due to these reasons that Stuart called on O’Donnell in rounds nine and 15 to adequately replace injured forwards Boyd and Paul Vaughan.
Back in the VB NSW Cup, the 23 year old proved to consistently be one of Mounties best forwards and his powerful displays in the front row helped to consolidate Mounties in the top four for the majority of the year.
When injuries to forwards such as Fensom, Shillington and White struck Canberra’s NRL roster, Stuart again called on O’Donnell to fill the void in Round 24.
It was in the Round 24 clash with the Cronulla Sharks that the former Junior Kangaroos representative experienced his first taste of victory for the Green Machine and this success was backed up a week later in the victory over the Wests Tigers.
O’Donnell was again impressive in the top grade in his first back-to-back games of his career, however he finished the season off in the VB NSW Cup due to Brett White returning from injury for his farewell game. O’Donnell would go on to among Mounties best in their semi-final loss to the Warriors.
Although he only experienced limited appearances and game time in 2014, O’Donnell’s exemplary attitude to improve himself and the quality of his brief time in the top grade earned the Greystanes Devils junior a contract extension for the 2015 season.
Average Minutes: 26
Try Assists: 0
Try Saves: 0
Line Breaks: 0
Line Break Assists: 0
Tackle Breaks: 2
Average Metres: 73.9
Average Tackles: 17.4