TOM SPARROW wants one word to define him as a footballer: 'Honest'.

The hard-working Melbourne youngster has broken into the star-studded midfield group of the reigning premier this season. Given the talent he's surrounded by, he knows the responsibility that comes with his spurts through the middle.

But rather than let the increased expectation burden him, Sparrow has thrived playing alongside the likes of Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and one of his biggest inspirations in Jack Viney. His motivation for that? Being an 'honest' player.

"It's just working and running two ways," Sparrow explained to

"You've got to work defensively to help your backs and you've also got to test your opposition mids going forward.

"I think it's really important that you can do it both ways and if there's something that I pride myself on it's my workrate. It's the hallmark of my game and I think I've been doing it pretty well so far this year.

"I really want to make the most of my chances when I'm in there, but I also want to make sure that I put the team in a good position from when I get in there to when I might rotate forward. I want to know that I've done my part and hopefully those players have the belief in me that when I do go in there, I can have an impact just as much as they do."

Sparrow has an idol when it comes to being an 'honest' footballer, and that's the player he's long modelled his game around in former club captain Viney. Renowned at Melbourne as being the side's 'mini-Viney', the tough and tenacious South Australian often draws encouragement from his older teammate's moments of magic.

"I looked up to him and to those guys when I first got to the club as a young fella. But even now, two or three years down the track, I'm still looking up to him. He's tough and he doesn't complain. He just does what needs to be done," Sparrow said.

"When he can put the team on his back and carry us through periods of games, it's really incredible to watch and to be able to play alongside him when he does it. He's honest, he's tough, he's no-fuss. I think he's really gone to another level this year, especially in the last month or so. His form has been really great."

Sparrow's emergence over the past two years as a reliable and ever-present part of Melbourne's success has been as emphatic as it has been rapid. Having played just seven games before last season, a then-20-year-old Sparrow broke through to feature in 21 of the side's 25 matches and become a key cog in its 2021 premiership team.

He played bit-part roles early in the campaign, acting as the medical substitute in eight of his first 14 appearances for the year, but soon established himself as an important senior regular on the eve of the club's finals charge.

His rise, at least externally, seemed to coincide with the team's remarkable run to the Grand Final last season. After returning to the starting 22 for its round 20 clash with Gold Coast, which it won by 98 points to break the mini-rut it had been going through during the previous month, Sparrow played in the remaining seven fixtures – all wins – and had a significant impact throughout September.

This season, Sparrow has taken his game to a new level. He penned a fresh two-year contract extension in March and has since rewarded the club's faith in him by starting all but one game – he missed a round seven bout with Hawthorn after entering the AFL's health and safety protocols – having an impact every time he's stepped onto the field.

He's currently averaging career-highs in disposals (17.1 per game), contested possessions (6.8 per game), marks (three per game), clearances (2.7 per game), score involvements (4.2 per game) and metres gained (255.9m per game), proving another shrewd recruiting move for a team that nabbed him with pick No.27 in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft.

"It definitely gave me a lot of confidence to be part of that team at the end of last year. But to be honest, I don't think I was doing anything differently throughout the year," Sparrow said.

"When I was coming in, I was just trying to really play my role to the best of my ability.

"Being the sub a few times, it really makes you grateful for when you are on the field. It drives that hunger and motivates you more to play better when you do get your chance.

"It helped me in a way, really knowing how much it's worth being in the team. To grow from that and get a bit of confidence and then grow my game even more this year, it's really helped me."

Melbourne hopes last week's victory, on the road against fellow top-four hopefuls Fremantle, can again be the spark that lights another run to the premiership. Its charge towards September continues again on Friday night in another blockbuster fixture against a red-hot Collingwood outfit that has won 10 games in a row.

This year's contest against the Pies coincides with the Demons' annual Round for Reach, recognising the legacy of club great Jim Stynes a decade after his passing and raising awareness and funds for his Reach Foundation.

Sparrow, and the entire club, hopes another win in front of another big crowd can provide more inspiration for the finals campaign ahead as Melbourne aims for back-to-back premierships.

"We want to be able to achieve something like that back here in Melbourne for all of our fans and families that didn't get to make it to Perth last year. I think there's a little bit of an extra driving factor there for us," Sparrow said.

"We want to make it happen again, this time in Melbourne. That's what we'll be looking to do, but that's what I'm sure a lot of the other clubs are looking to do as well. We just have to focus on playing our best brand and being a ruthless footy team."

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