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Billy and T.O put on a show

R7: Hartung 'The boys dug deep' Billy Hartung spoke to HawksTV following the side's narrow win over the Dees in Round 7.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Tim O'Brien of the Hawks and Cameron Pedersen of the Demons compete in a ruck contest during the 2017 AFL round 07 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Hawthorn Hawks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on May 07, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Tim O'Brien impressed with his high-flying marks and accurate goal kicking.

EMERGING youngster Tim O'Brien often played a bit-part role in Hawthorn's vaunted forward line in the past, but he understands he needs to step out of the shadows and become more of a focal point if the Hawks are to rise again.

O'Brien played perhaps the best match of his 21-game career against Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday, taking 10 marks (five contested) and kicking two majors in the Hawks' three-point win.

It was the way the 23-year-old approached his contests – full of self-belief and assuredness that emphasised the progress he has made in the last 18 months.

O'Brien, pick No.28 in the 2012 NAB AFL Draft, booted three goals in Hawthorn's only other win of the season against West Coast, which underlines the continuity he has finally found at senior level.

"It's just confidence and really backing myself in and knowing that I can perform at this level," O'Brien told AFL.com.au.

"I just focus on what I'm good at and go in with that in the front of my mind.

"When you feel like you've got more of a role within the side you've really got to step up and the last few weeks I've been able to do that a bit so it's been pleasing."

Read: Five talking points from Hawthorn v Melbourne

The Hawks have been patient with the 193cm mobile youngster, with O'Brien playing four games in 2014, none in 2015, 14 last season and four so far this year.

"(In) our last two wins, he's played important roles for us," Clarkson said.

"If he continues to have belief in himself and belief in our system and he gets opportunities to play, and can keep himself away from injury, which has dogged him a little bit, then we're reasonably excited with what he can bring to the group.

"He's been doing some pinch-hitting in the ruck, he's got a good leap, he jumps at the ball, (has) a nice understanding of the game and kicks the ball well.

"We've been pleased with his progress, but he's just a young player finding his way and hopefully he can put a few games together and get some continuity."

With Jarryd Roughead playing different roles in his return from 12 months out of the game due to his cancer diagnosis, O'Brien has been given more of a chance to establish himself in a more visible way in the Hawks' forward line.

O'Brien, originally from Glenelg, is contracted to Hawthorn until the end of the season. After serving a long apprenticeship with Box Hill in the VFL, O'Brien said playing senior football on a consistent basis is his main focus.

"This is my fifth year in the system now. I've been around for a little while and I'm starting to get the body I need to play the position that I'm playing," O'Brien said.

"For me it was all about the confidence and belief in myself. It was just about backing myself in to go for those marks or whatever it is at the time."

Read: Match report Round 7