TAKING the game on has been a big focus for Jonathan O’Rourke during the pre-season, as he attempts to break into Hawthorn’s experienced midfield in 2016.
The former GWS Giant and number two draft pick, who joined the Hawks at the end of 2014, has a year under his belt at Waverley Park and will head into 2016 on the back of a big pre-season.
“I’ve done nearly the whole of the pre-season, bar maybe one or two sessions,” he said.
“Last pre-season I probably started a bit outside the main group…. I came to the club with a bit of a hamstring injury, so to be in the main group from day dot this year has helped a lot.
“Also knowing all the boys, not having to worry about building relationships as much, has probably made it a lot easier to focus on training and what I need to do improve my game.”
The 21-year-old played two senior games last year, with appearances in Round 2 and Round 17 sandwiched between some impressive performances for VFL affiliate, Box Hill Hawks.
The versatile midfielder believes he can build on his efforts last year.
“Learning the game plan and ‘the Hawthorn way’ were big things for me last year,” O’Rourke said.
“Now it’s about building on that with my own game, doing what I do best and putting it into play with our game plan.
“Coming into my second year here at the club, I’m a lot more confident around the group. I’m starting to back myself a bit more and backing myself to take the game on.”
Backing himself has been a message O’Rourke says has been pushed by the coaches, as he attempts to break into a midfield featuring the likes of Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Jordan Lewis and Isaac Smith, just to name a few.
But far from being daunted, O’Rourke sees it as an exciting challenge, and a strong performance in Wednesday’s match-play session will have done his chances no harm.
“My goal is to play more senior footy,” he said.
“To do that I need to keep playing well and keep that form up throughout the NAB Challenge to get an opportunity early in the season.
It’s a pretty tough midfield to break into coming off the last three premierships, but if I can keep performing and putting my name up there it will hopefully put me in good stead.”
The benefit of having such an experienced group means there are so many players to learn from, and O’Rourke said Smith, the newest addition to the Hawks’ leadership group, had been one of many to help him.
“Isaac’s been really good with me, he’s helped me a fair bit,” he said.
“It’s little things – getting into good habits and maybe just jumping in the pool before training, or doing some touch work after training to get some extra sessions in.”
With at least four spots from last year’s premiership side up for grabs ahead of Round 1, O’Rourke said there was no shortage of competition and hunger within group.
“There’s obviously going to be plenty of competition for spots and it’s going to be pretty tough (to lock down a spot) I think, because everyone’s putting their hand up,” he said.
“Everyone’s being pretty positive.
“You can tell there’s plenty of hunger within the group to keep that success going, and I’m sure all the boys are looking forward to getting into the season.”