Darcy Tucker is an up and coming footballer who I’m sure you will hear more of come this time next year. He plays for the North Ballarat Rebels and was named in the 2014 under 18 All-Australian back line after his impressive performance across three games in the National Championships.

Now that the current draft crop have begun to find new homes, it’s time to start shifting our attention to the top age players who will be the talk of the draft next season.

SD: Thanks for your time, Darcy. Firstly, the 2014 AFL Draft had plenty of surprises. As a bottom-age player who played at state level, how does it make you feel to see some of your Vic Country teammates realise their dreams?

DT: It was great to see some of my teammates from Vic Country and from the Rebels picked up after all the hard work they have put in. It is quite surreal to think that I have played with and against many of these players and now they are on AFL lists, it shows how massive the transition is going straight from TAC Cup junior footy to the big time and I’m sure all the boys will have no problems fitting into an AFL environment. As a Saints supporter, I’m very happy to see three of my Vic Country teammates in Paddy McCartin, Hugh Goddard and Jack Lonie joining the club and I’m sure they will all have great careers.

What was it like to be recognised in the All-Australian side from the under 18 carnival?

It was a massive honour to be selected! It was something I would never expect to happen, especially as a bottom-age player. My goal was to try and play one game for Vic Country and I was stoked to be a part of the national carnival. I just wanted to play my role for the team across half back and as it turned out I did an alright job across the three games that I played. Being an All-Australian is something I’m truly humbled about and I’m very grateful for.

I want to take a look at your junior days now. You were a state level basketballer through your junior years, growing up playing with the Horsham Hornets. Was there ever a point growing up where you decided that basketball was what you wanted to pursue above all else?

Not entirely, I was always juggling football and basketball as I was growing up, however when I was about 12, basketball become really serious until I was 15. I loved it and it took priority over footy. There was one year where I played about five games of footy due to being committed to basketball through Vic Country commitments. I really aspired to make it to the top level and play over in America. Apart from those years where basketball was a priority, my passion was to become a footballer.

We often hear of players such as Scott Pendlebury and even Christian Petracca who have transferred their basketball skills into footballing ability. Would you say that you’re in the same boat and what have you learnt has helped you from basketball crossing over to into football?

Yeah definitely, I believe basketball has transferred into my footy skills as well as having the commitment needed as basketball took me all over the country, through training camps and tournaments as well as early morning training sessions. This has definitely helped me in football as I was already exposed to high workloads of training and made many sacrifices for basketball.

You come from quite a sporty family. What sort of influence have your parents been in your commitment to pursuing a career in football?

My parents have had a massive influence on me throughout my sporting life and there’s no way I could repay them as I owe them that much. From Dad getting me into footy when I was four and having a kick with me on the road nearly every day whilst growing up, and coaching me through under 12s, 14s and 17s. To all the traveling they have done to follow me around with basketball and football. They have done everything possible to assist me in pursuing a career in football and I thank them for that.

In 2013, you made the tough decision to move from the country town of Horsham to attend Ballarat Clarendon College for your VCE studies on a football scholarship. How have you coped with the move not only educationally, but mentally and physically and what benefits has it brought to your game?

This move was one of the best things I have done. By moving to school in Ballarat halfway through 2013, it gave me the chance to train with the North Ballarat Rebels as a 16-year-old which then allowed me to play four games at the end of the season. This quickly gave me an indication of what is expected as a TAC Cup player for the next two years. During 2014 it has saved me and my parents a lot of traveling as I’m already in Ballarat for training and home games, whereas it’s a two hour drive from Horsham. I’ve coped pretty well educationally and mentally, although it was fairly busy this year whilst doing year 12 and whilst being injured. Physically it was hard as we would play two games of footy a week whilst training, as school footy would be on a Wednesday. This made it hard to recover hard and I was sore most of the time, this become difficult especially during nationals.

You’ve just finished school however you still have another year of TAC Cup football to play. What do you have planned for 2015 career-wise?

Next year I will be doing a sport traineeship in Ballarat with the Rebels under Parto (Phil Partington, Rebels’ regional manager) so I’m really looking forward to that as it is suited to what I want to do in the future. It will also be ideal being around the club that I will be playing for all week with access to facilities like the ice baths so it will be good to be in a football environment all the time and I know that I’ll love it.

You had quite an injury riddled 2014 season, beginning the year with a broken hand and then suffering a broken ankle halfway through the season. Was it tough seeing your teammates lose those finals matches from the sidelines?

It has been extremely tough being injured for the second half of the year especially come finals time. I never like watching from the sidelines as I just want to be out there, however I have really enjoyed watching the team grow throughout the year achieving an eight game win streak after four straight losses at the start of the season as well as finishing in the top four. I also learnt a lot through being in the coaches box for a couple of games which gave me a chance to gain an insight on how coaches see and analyse the game. Sure it was tough with the losses in the finals but we learnt a lot as a group from these games that will give us a better chance next season.

What type of player do you consider yourself to be and do your coaches think the same? 

I would like to consider myself to be a player that would fit into any team structure, whether I’m in the back line, midfield or forward line. I have played most of my junior footy in the midfield and forward line however this year I have been played across the half-back line for the first time and I’ve really enjoyed it. My coaches consider me as a running half back however they are willing to add more strings to my bow by exposing me to different areas. I’m willing to play wherever’s best for the team.

Is there a particular player that you try and model your game around?

I like to watch a few players that I can try model my game on however it’s hard to compare myself to players like Scott Pendlebury as they are so good at what they do. I like watching Pendles’ composure and poise around the contests as that is something I would aspire to be like in the midfield. This year I have tried to model my game on Shaun Atley as a running half back, as well as Grant Birchall who also gives run and carry whilst hitting up targets with his penetrating left foot.

After watching the draft last night, is there some realisation now that the next group to potentially enter the AFL will include yourself? 

I try not to think about it too much however it has crossed my mind and it’s exciting to enter my final year of junior footy with this amazing opportunity. I’m just going to focus on making sure I have a consistent year of footy with the Rebels and have a good national carnival, as well as staying injury free, then hopefully things will fall my way come draft day next year.

Thanks for your time Darcy and I wish you all the best in your final year of TAC Cup football.

No worries Scott, thanks for having me.