WELCOME to The Standard's new series Now and Then where we speak to Hampden league exports about their first senior games and seasons. Our next guest is Cobden's Sean Darcy who now plays for AFL club Fremantle.
SEAN Darcy says the man who presented his Cobden guernsey ahead of his Hampden league debut played a significant role in shaping him as a footballer.
The Fremantle ruckman, now 36 games into his fledgling AFL career, was a towering 16-year-old when he played his one and only senior game for the Bombers in 2015.
His former junior coach Marty Darcy - no relation - was given the honour of handing Sean his black and red jumper that day.
But Marty's impact stretches back to Sean's under 12 playing days.
They also teamed up in the under 16s.
"I remember I was first year under 16s and Marty was the first person to play me multiple positions," Sean told The Standard.
"One game I started at centre-half-back, didn't do much, one game I started at centre-half-forward, full-forward. He tried to expose me to different parts of the ground which really helped my development personally.
"He was the one who didn't make me just play ruck, he wanted me to play other positions which really helped as well."
Sean, who prefers to play ruck, conceded "I probably wasn't too happy at the time" but looks back now with gratitude.
"Especially in this day and age, you can't be a one-trick pony and play one position," he said. "You've got to have other strings to your bow.
"I remember (former Fremantle coach) Ross (Lyon) in my first few years was like 'I don't care if you're the best ruckman in the world, you've got to learn to play up forward'."
Sean had limited opportunities to play senior football for his home club before he was drafted.
He seized the chance to play against South Warrnambool and remembers playing alongside Sam Cunnington, brother of North Melbourne's Ben, and long-time mate Jono Benallack.
"I was up at boarding school (in Melbourne) and we had a bye," he recalled.
"It was close to Easter and I had Thursday and Friday off school, so I came down Wednesday night after school and trained on Thursday with Cobden.
"South Warrnambool were pretty young as well at the time. I reckon we lost by 20 points or something."
Sean, who was in year 11 at the time, said he remembered being "unfit to run out a game".
"I started off well. My first half was all right, the first quarter especially," he said.
"I think I got a bit of the ball which was good but the last half wasn't too great."
School football, NAB League and Vic Country commitments meant Sean didn't add to his Cobden games tally.
But the South Purrumbete-raised export said he was grateful to play one senior match for a club which "helped me realise I could play the game".
"They have done so much for me and so much for my development as a footballer," he said.
"They taught me the fundamentals which really helped. The love for the game, that is where I found it."
Sean tries to return to the south-west as often as he can and spent time home during the AFL's coronavirus-enforced shutdown earlier this year.
"It was good to refresh, go back, remember where you're from, talk some trash," he said.
Sean is averaging 21 hit-outs a game in 2021 as the Dockers' first-choice ruckman.
"I am feeling pretty confident. It's probably been my most consistent year with my body which is really good," he said.
"I feel like every week I am learning and growing as a player. I am playing on some really good ruckmen and am trying to learn off them and get better."
The Dockers' midfield is new-look with rising star contender Caleb Serong and former top-five picks Andrew Brayshaw and Adam Cerra spending more time in the middle alongside Sean.
"It is a lot of fun. They are my age and we have a lot of fun off the field," he said.
"They love their footy. Serong is playing well, Cerra is showing his class and Andy is a bull and we had Darcy Tucker at the start of the year who was playing really well before he went down with an injury."
Fremantle has won three of its past four games and hosts GWS Giants at Optus Stadium on Saturday.