Crows coaching staff have shown no hesitation in rewarding good form this season, regardless of a player’s age or experience.
Former rookie Jake Kelly and draftee Jake Lever paved the way by earning their AFL debuts in the opening few rounds of the season.
Hard-running half-forward Riley Knight starred with two goals in his maiden senior match last weekend at Domain Stadium following a string of consistent SANFL performances.
Youngsters Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Matt Crouch and Charlie Cameron have also flourished with greater opportunities this season, while left-footer Rory Atkins is scheduled to become the fourth Crow to make his AFL debut in 2015 in Sunday’s Showdown XXXIX.
O’Brien, who was promoted to Adelaide’s senior roster in May, said it was a boost knowing Club selectors will back young players in consistent form.
“It’s good to see those guys getting a game, because they’ve all earned it,” he said.
“I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and if the opportunity arises I’ll take it with both hands. At the moment, I’m just focusing on playing the best footy that I can.”
O’Brien, 19, has been Adelaide’s standout ruckman at State League level this year. He’s missed just one game for an average of 30 hit-outs and 12 disposals a match.
The first-year Crow was again among Adelaide’s best in the Club’s record-breaking SANFL win over North Adelaide on Saturday.
O’Brien gave the Crows midfield first-use all afternoon with a game-high 34 hit-outs, along with nine possessions, two score assists and a goal. The undermanned Roosters registered just 28 hit-outs as a team in comparison.
“I feel like I’m playing reasonable footy,” he said after Adelaide’s 101-point win at Prospect.
“I got a bit of a knock just before half-time which slowed me down a bit, but overall I’m pretty happy with how I’m going.
“I’ve still got a lot of areas to improve my game though. I’m working hard to continue to hone my ruck craft and try to take more marks – that’s probably my main area to improve.
“I also want to be able to go forward a bit more often. That’s important as a ruckman to have that ability to drift forward, take marks and kick goals.”
Cam Ellis-Yolmen, Nathan van Berlo, Mitch Grigg and Jarryd Lyons all returned to Adelaide’s SANFL team on Saturday as the Club continues to regain key players from its injury list.
Defender Kyle Cheney also resumed after a back complaint, while fellow backman Andy Otten played just his second game since undergoing a second knee reconstruction.
“It’s good to have that kind of talent available,” O’Brien said.
“Many of those guys have a lot of experience at AFL level, so it’s such a bonus for us to have them out on the field playing well, but also giving advice and providing a bit of leadership for the rest of us.
“We probably didn’t have that at the start of the year.”
It took Adelaide nine rounds to register its first SANFL victory of the year, but the Crows have now won three of their past five games and are eying off more wins with six matches remaining.
“We just want to play the best footy that we can every week,” O’Brien said.
“We think we can win every game from now on, and I reckon we’ve got the team and the talent to do so.
“Hopefully we can finish off the year strongly and on a positive note.”