WARRNAMBOOL’S Darcy Graham could easily be wearing a Koroit jumper in Saturday’s Hampden league grand final.
The 19-year-old, who has enjoyed a standout year with the Blues in the centre, is expected to have one of the biggest jobs in football when he lines up against Koroit, chasing back-to-back premierships.
Graham will most likely find himself in a run-with role on Koroit skipper, Maskell Medal winner Ben Goodall.
It is one of many crucial match ups that will influence the outcome but back in summer there was a time when Goodall and Graham were looking like being teammates.
Graham trained with the Saints in the pre-season after he contemplated a reunion with long-time mentor Adam Dowie, who took over as Koroit coach.
For a kid who had just won the ultimate prize — a premiership in his first year out of juniors — at a club he had grown up with and one where his family has a rich history, it was a big step.
Graham yesterday said he had seriously considered the move.
He had nothing against his teammates or the club.
“When I first played under Adam Dowie he was at Warrnambool,” he said.
“I just learnt a lot off him.
‘‘I always learnt off him, at school he was my teacher and we had a footy class in year 10 or 11.
‘‘He taught me a lot — he’s probably made me the player I am.”
Graham, who was a member of the Blues’ 2011 under 18 premiership, said he had spoken with a few of his teammates before opting to stay at Reid Oval.
“All my best mates pretty much play in the team,” he said.
“I have all my cousins there.”
It was his family’s ties to the club that convinced him to remain a Blue.
He had shared last year’s premiership with older brother Travis and their cousins Damien McCorkell, Jed Turland and Tim O’Keeffe. Jed’s younger brother Jye has forced his way into the team for Saturday’s decider.
“This could be the last year we get to win a grand final together at Warrnambool,” he said.
“A fair few people are going away next year and he (Travis) said ‘it is the last chance you might get with all your mates’.”
The pre-season quandary has had a big influence on Graham’s 2013 season.
He has raised his game to a new level — he is a big chance in the Blues’ best and fairest having been named in their best players 11 times from 20 matches.
The concretor said that he had played all season as though he had a point to prove to his teammates — that he belongs with the Blues. “When I told Tilty (coach Scott Carter) I was staying, there were about five guys who messaged me to say it was good,” he said.
“When we were playing pre-season games I felt I had to play a bit better and prove myself.”
That mindset coupled with a new role has seen him relish a tough workload.
Instead of playing on a wing like last season, Graham has become a key member of the on-ball brigade.
He gets a run-with role each game — last week it was Jake Myles, the week before in the second semi-final it was Goodall.
“It’s way better doing it,” he said.
“I get assigned to a player every week and have to shut them down and try and get my own possessions and use my fitness.
“It (having a defensive job) makes you work a bit harder to get your own ball.
‘‘When you get a possession it makes you feel you have earned it, you have to go and go.”
Graham bucks the trend of midfielders rotating heavily.
“I only came off the ground once (last week) and played the whole game in the centre and the same with Koroit (two weeks ago),” Graham told The Standard.
‘‘It’s just when I get a chance.
“We have heaps more rotations than even two years ago, a lot of the on-ballers are coming off every five minutes.”
Graham is staying the course in more than one way.