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O'Meara, circa 2019: How Hawk has hit career-best numbers

Jaeger on fire in early 2019 Jaeger O'Meara has started the season in fine form for the Hawks

NORTH Melbourne still led by nine points last week when contested ball king Ben Cunnington trudged over to Hawk Jaeger O'Meara and shoved him with both hands. 

It's the third quarter, and Hawthorn is coming. 

Far from being intimidated, O'Meara stands his ground at the stoppage, picks his moment, then blows past the Roo – with some help from James Cousins – and stalks the Sherrin. 

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The 25-year-old snatches possession, fends off Trent Dumont, and expertly finds speedy winger Ricky Henderson by hand as Aaron Hall hangs off him. 

Fast-forward a couple of minutes, and O'Meara is at it again.

He intercepts a stray Jack Ziebell kick, breaks Dom Tyson's attempted tackle, takes one step, spins past Ziebell in another split-second decision, then kicks the ball long to Chad Wingard. 

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Wingard subsequently beats Scott Thompson in a one-on-one contest and sets up a simple Conor Nash goal. 

This is Jaeger O'Meara, circa 2019. 

O'Meara's five broken tackles are the equal-fourth-most in the competition this year, behind only Adelaide's Wayne Milera (seven) and Kangaroo Shaun Higgins and Swan Tom Papley (six each).

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He is equally at home kicking goals from beyond 50m and burning off opponents in space as he is working his way out of tight spaces.

 

O'Meara's heroics against North last Sunday afternoon came after the brilliant midfielder hurt his hip in the second term. 

He returned to the field after a brief hiatus and finished with a team-high 32 disposals (12 contested), 12 tackles and 10 clearances.

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Through three rounds, the player two captains tipped in the pre-season to win this year's Brownlow Medal is averaging career-best numbers almost across the board. 

HAWKS RANKING

STATISTIC

AVERAGE

AFL RANKING

1st

Pressure points

67.6

1st

1st

Centre clearances

3.7

3rd

1st

Tackles

7.7

4th

1st

Clearances

6.7

12th

1st

Inside 50s

5.7

13th

1st

Disposals

28.7

18th

2nd

Metres gained

467

27th

2nd

Contested possessions

11

34th

  • Statistics courtesy of Champion Data

All of this is happening while O'Meara's housemate and reigning Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell is on the shelf, because of a broken leg suffered in mid-January.

Also missing last week out of the Hawks' preferred onball division from last year's finals were Liam Shiels, Shaun Burgoyne and Dan Howe.

O'Meara's primary support in the centre came from a 14-gamer (James Worpel), a 10-gamer (James Cousins) and a 25-gamer (Harry Morrison) – none of them older than 21.

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The question of how the 2013 NAB AFL Rising Star winner would handle being the midfield spearhead has emphatically been answered.

O'Meara didn't play an AFL game in his last two years at Gold Coast in 2015 and 2016 because of persistent knee issues, with a further problem restricting him to only six matches the next year at Hawthorn. 

There was major scrutiny on the deal to bring him to Waverley Park during that first season in brown and gold, particularly given the Hawks started the season 1-5, but they are having the last laugh.

As is so often the case.

However, Hawthorn remains prudent in managing everything O'Meara does with a fine-tooth comb in the pre-season and during the week-to-week grind of the season proper.

"I'm feeling good," O'Meara told AFL.com.au after Hawthorn's intraclub match in mid-February. 

"I want to play as much footy as I can throughout the season, so I'm still getting a fair bit of work in, but we manage my loads and we'll probably do that for the rest of my career.

"The body's feeling good and the knees are good, so touch wood they stay that way." - Jaeger O'Meara

O'Meara earned a promotion to the Hawks' leadership group only weeks after those comments and he is the youngest member, in a hint of what may await him in the future.

He is clean cut, overwhelmingly polite – Hawthorn staffers gush about that part of his persona – and generous with his time, whether it is with his coaches, teammates, fans or the media. 

Most importantly, O'Meara is playing regularly and playing very well.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson was reluctant to sing his praises on Friday, preferring to focus on the impressive development of his entire midfield brigade, but he knows what he has in O'Meara. 

That hip issue could yet keep O'Meara out of Sunday's match against St Kilda, which may highlight just how valuable he's been this season.

Either way, he is proving to the football public just why Hawthorn invested so much in him two-and-a-half years ago.