In the words of his countryman Zach Tuohy, it was always a case of when and not if, Mark O’Connor joined the leadership group.

It seems a funny statement to be made about a player who four years ago had never played a game of Australian rules football.

It’s a time O’Connor remembers well, and somewhat painfully.

“It was very difficult at the start. I embarrassed myself a few times – a lot actually,” he says.

“I forgot that a mark existed a few times. I forgot about the tackling rule, things like that. I remember on my first day, I took a mark and played on not knowingly and Harry Taylor came in from the blindside and absolutely steamrolled me. That’s one I won’t forget.”

Then there was the moment he was told he’d be making his AFL debut, just months after walking through the doors at GMHBA Stadium.

“I remember thinking I wasn’t ready. I remember going into Scotty’s office and thinking it was a bit of a joke,” he says.

“I thought the media team here kind of set it up. I was looking around for hidden cameras.”

“Even the meetings after I talked to Scotty I still didn’t think I was going to be playing so it was a big shock to me.”

O’Connor had one kick and eight handballs in his debut game against the Bombers before gathering another 12 in the following game in his only two outings of the 2018 season.

In light of the early speed bumps, why was Zach Tuohy so sure Mark O’Connor would make something of himself? 

It all comes down to attitude.

“I tried to help him as much as I could early, but I’ve said this in a few interviews, he really hasn’t taken much guidance at all,” Tuohy says.

“I’ve helped him as much as I possibly can but anything he’s achieved to this point is really down to his own drive and professionalism.

“His attitude to training was remarkable. He came in not just wanting to play but wanting to be one of the better players in the team.

“He is the type that I could see being a captain down the line. He has all those kind of attributes and is learning off one of the best captains that’s ever been in the AFL.

“Everyone likes being around him and he’s got an infectious personality.

Mark Blicavs, the club’s vice-captain and undisputed aerobic champion, remembers O’Connor’s natural running ability.

“He’s one that I thought could really challenge me and made me a little bit nervous,” Blicavs says.

“He came to the club and showed some great work ethic, ability to learn the game and the relationships he’s made with his teammates have just been outstanding. “

O’Connor for his part, attributes his success to where he came from and his development to the coaches in Geelong.

The tireless work ethic was born before he set foot on Australian shores.

“I probably gained that from my own club at home and the people that were around. We work very hard so it’s certainly something that I thought I could bring to the table,” he says.

“With the coaches that are here, if you just bring a good attitude they can really mould you into a good player.”

He doesn’t expect much to be different now that he’s a part of the seven foremost leaders of the club.

“I might be able to steer the ship a bit more but again I’m incredibly honoured,” he says.

“It’s fantastic, it gives me great pride top know that my peers do respect me in this way, but it won’t change much for me, I’ve always been fairly driven and I don’t think my role changes too much.”