After breaking through for his debut and playing five games last year, O’Neill built upon that platform with seven appearances (and one as unused medical sub) in 2021.

The budding midfielder started the year in the side coming off an impressive summer, and picked up 18 disposals in the round one victory over Gold Coast.

However, he was out of the side following the round two defeat to the Bulldogs, and stringing games together proved a challenge.

O’Neill didn’t play more than two games in a row, with opportunities drying up in the second half of the campaign as senior stars Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and Tim Kelly returned from injuries.

The 21-year-old’s WAFL form was encouraging, though, with O’Neill averaging 23 disposals and five tackles during a six-game block between rounds 12 to 21.

02:36 Mins
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Best of 2021 - O'Neill & Jones

Check out the best moments from the 2021 AFL season from some of your young guns in Xavier O'Neill and Jamaine Jones!

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Standout performance: Beating the Blues

Travelling to the SCG to face Carlton in round 12, the understrength Eagles needed their youngsters to stand up – and they did – with O’Neill among those playing his best game for the year in an uplifting win.

With 14 possessions, five marks, three tackles and three inside 50s, the dynamic onballer had an impact on the result, and effectively kicked the sealer at the halfway mark of the final term.

Reading the crumbs from Jamie Cripps’ high ball inside 50, O’Neill burst into space, steadied and converted from 25m to kick the Eagles 23 points clear.

Season averages:

Disposals – 10.5

Pressure Acts – 13.8

Disposal Efficiency – 69

Inside 50s – 1.9

One Percenters – 1.1