MELBOURNE forward Jack Fitzpatrick credits Neil Craig for making him believe he belongs at the top level. 

The 22-year-old was seemingly in the football wilderness at the start of this season, unable to earn senior selection under then coach Mark Neeld despite consistently strong performances in the VFL.

Fitzpatrick was overlooked for the first nine games of the season, before finally being granted his opportunity in round 10 against Hawthorn.

He has gone from strength to strength under the tutelage of Craig, encapsulated by a career-high four goals against the Brisbane Lions in Darwin last Saturday night.

The ruck-forward told he did not allow himself to become disheartened during his time out of the senior side. 

"At times it was pretty hard," he said.

"There were stages where I thought I'd played well enough where I personally felt like I deserved a senior call-up.

"But for one reason or another I wasn't quite in the side."

Instead he identified areas for improvement. When he did receive his chance, Craig told him to grasp it with both hands. 

"He's (Craig) just given me that confidence to back myself in," Fitzpatrick said.

"He's told me, because it's a game of AFL footy, don't treat it any differently to how I would playing in the VFL.

"Craigy's put that faith in me and I've relished that the last few weeks."

Fitzpatrick has fought back from diversity from a young age. He was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome when he was just five years old and just last year found out he was a diabetic.

Now he is finding his feet at the top level, he believes the setbacks he has fought have helped improve him as a footballer. 

"I think it has built up a bit of resilience. It's taught me about playing good footy week after week after week, rather than playing one good game here or there," he said.

"It has taught me a lot - that resilience to keep believing in yourself."

Melbourne has shown marked improvement under Craig, with players having clear-cut roles to carry out.

Like many of his teammates, Fitzpatrick said Craig has had a positive influence on the group.

"Whichever coach you have, they are all going to have their own different game styles and structures," Fitzpatrick said.

"That doesn't mean that one is right or one is wrong, I think we've been released a bit and Craigy has said he just loves to see goals.

"And that's what excites him about footy."