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Melbourne Football Club

McDonald making strides down back

Player update: Oscar McDonald Oscar McDonald speaks to Matt Burgan in the lead up to the Queen's Birthday clash with Collingwood
He’s played six games and there aren’t too many key position defenders in the competition, with probably the exception of [Carlton’s Jacob] Weitering, that are doing everything right
Jade Rawlings

OSCAR McDonald is a 20-year-old with six AFL matches to his name.

He also happens to play a key defensive role and play four quarters at the most intense level the game has to offer. 

There aren’t too youngsters doing that role at the moment.

And so it’s not surprising Jade Rawlings is a strong supporter of the likeable country kid who was recruited from Edenhope-Apsley/North Ballarat at No.53 in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft.

“I think he’s improving at a rate of knots. He understands the work that needs to be put in from Monday to Friday, so he can perform on game day,” the Melbourne defensive coach told melbournefc.com.au.

“Each time he’s stepped out in the past three weeks, he’s really improved. There are some inexperienced player errors that bob up every now and then, but the positives that he’s doing far outweighs everything that’s been a mistake or not to the level over the past three weeks.

“He’s played six games and there aren’t too many key position defenders in the competition, with probably the exception of [Carlton’s Jacob] Weitering, that are doing everything right.

“I think that he’s progressing really well and I love his attitude and he’s really improved his contest work and he’s one of our better decision-makers, so I’ve been really pleased with how he’s been coming along.”

For McDonald, he has played the past three matches for Melbourne and made four appearances this year, after making his AFL debut at the end of the 2015 season.

He played his first AFL match against Fremantle at Domain Stadium in round 22 last year and then played in Melbourne’s final round win over Greater Western Sydney at Etihad Stadium.

McDonald made it back-to-back wins over GWS, when he was part of Melbourne’s round one win at the MCG this year, but then didn’t return until round nine against the Brisbane Lions at the ‘G after some injuries.

He suffered an ankle injury and missed round two, before returning to play in the VFL. Concussion forced him to sit out of a match in late April, before he returned for Casey. He was an emergency for rounds seven and eight, before regaining a position in Melbourne’s 22.

Against Hawthorn last round, McDonald notched up a career-best 22 disposals and arguably played his best AFL match yet. Reflecting on that match and his recent weeks, McDonald said he had savoured his opportunity back in the side.  

“It’s been good. We’ve got a young backline, but in terms of the whole backline group at the club, there is plenty of experience there to feed off,” he told Melbourne TV

“Living with [older brother] Tom [McDonald], he offers some valuable experience to help me out.

“There is me, [Josh] Wagner and Jayden Hunt that are in the backline and are pretty young.

Despite the scrutiny of playing at the highest level, McDonald he didn’t feel any greater responsibility than any other player in the side.

“We play a team defence, but you need to play your part in that, [so] you definitely feel responsibility to play your role, help out the team and to get the win – everyone would feel that,” he said.

“I’ve got my expectations on myself that I want to live up to and the coaches have expectations on me to play well.

“But we’re a young group that comes together and works together, so if one is down, we’ll pick them up and if I’m down, they’ll pick me. It all works together and it works together well.”

McDonald said he had relished the opportunity to play with big brother Tom.

“It’s been really good. I’ve had four games this year with him and I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said.

“We try and share the responsibility and we have a laugh every now and then, but when it’s ‘go time, it’s go time’ and we take it pretty seriously.

“It’s pretty special [playing with him], so it’ll be more special when we look back on it and realise after our careers that we played together.”

With his level-headed and realistic approach, McDonald said he was simply trying to do his bit for the team and keep developing for the rest of the season.

“It’s good to get games in the second year and you just take it as it comes,” he said.

“I’m just trying to help the team out as best as I can.”