WHEN Oisin Mullin finally arrived at Kardinia Park in December, someone mentioned to him that it only took Mark O'Connor four games in the VFL to land a debut back in 2017, long before he became one of three Irish exports to win an AFL premiership.
It stuck in Mullin's mind. Not because he wanted to get there faster than the County Kerry product. It stuck out because it was the first time he realised it could be done quickly, even at a club like Geelong that has missed out on playing in September only once in the past 15 years.
The two-time GAA Young Player of the Year initially committed to joining Geelong as a Category B rookie at the end of 2021 before parking the move due to the lingering uncertainty around international travel as the world crawled out of the pandemic.
Mullin landed on the Bellarine Peninsula in December, and after playing just two practice matches in the pre-season and three VFL games, the County Mayo defender made his debut against Greater Western Sydney in round 11 and then headed to Docklands on Saturday.
The 23-year-old had been to Marvel Stadium once before for a new players induction, but Saturday night was different. Very different.
"The last two weeks have been very enjoyable, very interesting. It has obviously been a massive step up from VFL level to AFL. I didn't think it would come around so quickly. It has been really enjoyable, especially getting a win out there. It was a tough game, so it was good to grind through it. It was a win that was definitely needed," Mullin told AFL.com.au after the 22-point win over the Western Bulldogs.
"All the lads talked about it pre-game, how intense it can be at Marvel given it's an indoor facility. It was noticeable how much quicker the game was, how much faster the ball travelled. I tried to relax as much as possible and enjoy the occasion, not get too overwhelmed. I think I was lucky coming over with the experience of playing in decent size crowds at home."
What Mullin lacks in playing experience in this foreign code in a foreign land he makes up for in his exposure to the big time. Unlike some of his compatriots who arrive in the AFL with minimal experience, the 182cm, 84kg defender has played big games inside Dublin's 82,000 seat stadium Croke Park. And you can tell.
Two-time premiership coach Chris Scott contemplated picking Mullin even earlier than he did and it's not hard to see why, given his speed, endurance, ball use and composure.
"No (I wasn't confident he could handle it), until I saw him play last week. Last week was a bit of a… (he can handle it moment)," Scott said post-game.
"We seriously did talk about bringing him in before that. It's not as if it was a complete surprise to us. It is one thing to see indications that he could do it, it is another thing to see him do it under pressure. He has given us reason for optimism as well. There is some chance we will see an all-Irish backline more than a couple of times."
The presence of Tuohy and O'Connor hasn't just provided him with living, breathing examples of what's possible, they have helped fast track his development. And the timing of his inclusion in the senior side couldn't be better.
O'Connor will become just the sixth Irishman to reach 100 AFL games when the Cats head to South Australia to face Port Adelaide after the bye, while Tuohy is just three games away from drawing level with the games record of Melbourne icon Jim Stynes.
"It has been very good playing with the two of them; they have been so helpful in the transition over, even just initially seeing that it can be done given how successful Zach has been and will potentially be the most capped Irish AFL player this year and Mark is coming up to 100 games," Mullin said.
"Both of them are such seasoned players and both have been very helpful in making it an easy transition. They have done extra sessions, extra kicking with me and things like that, which is very helpful."
Mullin is now settled at Geelong and in Geelong. He has moved in with Ollie Henry five minutes away from Kardinia Park, and his partner, Jess, moved over from Ireland last week. Fox Footy has been getting a good run on the TV. He knows the prestige of the Brownlow and Coleman Medals but is still getting his head around some rules.
"I wouldn't be overly confident doing a quiz on AFL just yet. I'm still figuring out a few little rules, there are so many different rules in AFL," he said.
"I think I've got all the basics covered, which is a start. There have been a few times where you scratch your head but then reset pretty quick. I'm trying to watch as much games as possible, just to see how different players play and try to learn and pick up things."
If the fortnight is anything to go from, Mullin will have plenty of time to learn the rules. Geelong may have just found the next Tuohy or O'Connor.