O’Brien’s tall task

Reilly O'Brien3Reilly O’Brien relished the challenge of leading Adelaide’s ruck on debut against North Melbourne.

Recruited with the Club’s first pick in last year’s Rookie Draft, O’Brien has been impressive in his first AFL pre-season. The 201cm, 98kg, tall was thrust into the action on Sunday in the absence of No.1 ruckman Sam Jacobs and trade period recruit Luke Lowden, who both sat out the opening round of the NAB Challenge.

O’Brien, 19, contested the first centre bounce and played out the whole game, with support from pinch-hitting ruckman Josh Jenkins.

“I was just honoured to get in the guernsey and play,” O’Brien said.

“It was really good to get a hit-out against the big bodies. I haven’t played a lot of senior footy before, so it was really good to test myself against a couple of quality ruckmen.

“It was a good team performance for the most part and I was happy to contribute.”

O’Brien finished with 14 hit-outs, eight possessions and three marks in a performance that pleased coach Phil Walsh.

“I thought all our young guys had a couple of moments where they looked up to the standard. I thought Reilly had a particularly good game for his first look at AFL,” Walsh said.

“In saying that, I was happy with Harrison Wigg, Keenan Ramsey and Sam Siggins in the last quarter did a couple of things.

“Jake Kelly didn’t look out of place either, so we’re happy with our young guys.”

O’Brien also had an opportunity to kick his first goal as a Crow in the fourth quarter.

The agile tall showed off his contested-marking ability with a nice one-hander 20 metres out from goal, but unfortunately couldn’t reward himself. His kick was a shank that went across the face of goal and through for a behind.

“There was a bit of wind and I had few things running through my mind as well. I think I just stuffed up the ball drop … next time. Back to the training track to work on it,” he said.

Reilly said his battle with promising Kangaroos ruckman Daniel Currie and the athletically-gifted Majak Daw would be invaluable to his development.

“It was a big step up and a good learning experience. It gives you a taste and perspective on what you need to improve on, and just how elite you need to be to play at that level,” he said.

“I think everyone could probably notice in the last five minutes that I was battling a bit. I haven’t played at that intensity before, but that’s what it’s all about, just trying to adjust to the level and building on that.”

Jacobs and Lowden could both return in Adelaide’s second NAB Challenge match against Geelong at Simonds Stadium on Thursday, March 12. If not, O’Brien will be ready for another crack.

“I just want to continue to improve and learn from ‘Sauce’. I rate him as the best ruckman in the League, so I’ll soak up as much as I can from him,” he said.

“If the opportunity presents itself (to play AFL) again, I’ll be available and just be the best player I can be this year.”