Just a few months ago, James O’Donnell was bowling for Essendon District Cricket Club pursuing a professional career in cricket.

This morning, O’Donnell was putting on the red, white and blue jumper for the very first time.

The unique story of the Bulldogs’ newest Category B signing is a special one. Son of former Australian cricketer Simon O’Donnell, the youngster has been drawn back to football after representing Victoria at Under 12s level.

When the call came from Luke Beveridge, O’Donnell had no choice but to answer it.

“It was an unknown number, I didn’t know exactly who it was,” O’Donnell said.

“For him to introduce himself on the phone, I was pretty excited. I think mum was in the kitchen when I was on the phone to him and I was smiling ear to ear.

“She’s thinking 'who the hell is on the phone'! It was very, very cool – I'm excited to work under him and get to know him a bit better.”


 O’Donnell has been training as part of the Footscray program without playing a game and is now eligible for selection at either level.

“I'm absolutely over the moon, it has been an interesting couple of months,” he said.

“To be here now and start in the next couple of days. I am super excited, I can’t wait.

“I grew up playing both cricket and footy, loving both - having a ball every weekend in the winter and the summer.

“Cricket took priority in the latter years of my schooling life. To now jump back into footy – I’ve missed it so much.

“I just can’t wait to play.”


The former fast bowler is open to any position on the ground, having started as a midfielder in his junior years.

“I'm very open minded to find my place position-wise,” he said.

“Growing up playing midfield, rolling more forward when I last played. I’m happy to play wherever suits. Look forward to giving it all a crack.

“It’s very exciting to follow in my family’s footsteps. Definitely grew up dreaming of this and I wanted to either play a bit of cricket at a professional level or footy.

“To see what my Dad and Pa have done in the past it is pretty cool to think about. More than anything I am excited to forge my own path and see what I can do."