Twenty-three games of confident and assured AFL football.
Mark O’Connor’s breakout season was one that few predicted prior to the Cats’ 2019 campaign, but for those closely following his football trajectory the Irishman’s rapid rise comes as no surprise.
The signs of O’Connor’s remarkable improvement were visible as the Cats closed out a disappointing 2018.
The former Gaelic footballer was a standout performer in the club’s elimination final loss to the Demons, capping a run of four consecutive games to finish the year.
O'Connor entered 2019 with the confidence he left the last and never looked back, missing only two games to injury as the Cats stormed to a preliminary final berth.
It was O’Connor’s Round 6 performance against the reigning premiers that truly showcased his potential as an athlete.
O’Connor broke the 20-disposal mark for the first time in his career, putting the ball inside 50 four times as he showed off an offensive side to his developing game.
The third-year Cat also grabbed a career-high nine marks on the night.
It was in the same game that O’Connor left the mouths of spectators and coaches agape with a stellar piece of defensive play.
O’Connor won a footrace with West Coast small forward Jamie Cripps before he turned onto his nonpreferred left side, dashed past Jack Darling in hot pursuit, took a cheeky bounce and drilled a 50-metre bullet to Sam Menegola.
He does one or two things every week that take us by surprise to an extent.”
On the back of that eye-catching O’Connor effort, Cats coach Chris Scott was glowing in his praise of the third-year Cat.
Even to the men watching him most closely, O’Connor continues to make quantum developmental leaps that take even the coaches by surprise.
Ideal Locker Buddy
Zach Tuohy has been an ideal influence on his young countryman and that will continue in 2020.
The next progression for O’Connor is to continue to develop his offensive weaponry to compliment his sound defensive fundamentals, something which Tuohy has excelled at over his nine-year AFL career.
The more O’Connor can start to hurt the opposition going the other way, the more dangerous the Cats’ defence becomes.