Dylan Buckley

Dylan, Bucks, Bucka, SOJ, Rooey, Pipes or my personal favourite, Hollywood.

He goes by many names. But the truth is this; when I first laid eyes on Dylan Buckley, I didn’t like him.

From memory, my first introduction of Dylan was via a YouTube video from Carlton who announced that they were signing up the son of Jimmy Buckley.

An eighteen-year-old with the body of twelve-year-old and a windswept comb over who struggled through his very first camera interview.

At the time, it said more about me than Dylan. We were due to start on the same day in mid-November 2011 for 2012 pre-season and I was carrying in unfavourable first impressions of someone I’d never met.

In a way it’s perhaps fortunate that – fast-forwarding a few months to a trip to Hong Kong in October 2012 – Dylan admitted to me that his view of me mirrored mine of him: we weren’t sure about each other.

But whatever was felt going into day one of our new respective careers, it melted within about three seconds of meeting each other. From then on, it was the birth of a great friendship.

I was always told your first year at the club tendered you mostly toward the guys you got drafted with and this certainly became the case. In the most unlikely of places, from the most unlikely of circumstances, I’d found one of my best mates.

But to know Dylan as just the son of a Carlton legend is to seriously underrate him as a person. And indeed, as a footballer.

The past three years has tested Dylan in many ways. 2011, his pre-draft year, was a write-off. He played just three games before requiring season-ending ankle surgery.

The ankle rehabilitation took him the best part of ten months to overcome, encroaching into the beginning of his tenure at the Blues.

As 2012 rolled around; through hard work, he got back for Round 1 of the NAB Cup against Port Adelaide and kicked a goal – a roost from the 50m arc no less – with his first kick. Back at home and on the couch nursing one of several injuries, I was ecstatic.

Yet from ecstasy came another adversity when he got his ring finger caught in Jarrad Waite’s jumper at training the following week. A torn ligament and a three-month stint on the sidelines – not to mention a very noticeable bandage – got slapped in Dylan’s face.

Still no complaint.

The rest of Dylan’s season could only be described as up-and-down. He never felt he’d reached the stamina to play senior football, sometimes playing just 60% of a game due to the number of rotations he was taking in a match.

Yet there were signs. Really good signs too.

While he struggled with endurance and repeat sprint ability, an ABC-televised game was on hand to witness Dylan kicking four second-half goals against Werribee in the middle of 2012.

The fact that it was broadcasted match probably spurred him on. If nothing else, it certainly got many Carlton fans licking their lips.

As with everyone else at the football club, a change in the hierarchy at the conclusion of the 2012 season opened a new chapter for Dylan.

2012 had been a year where we rode some bumps with authority together.

Both of us grew up with privileged backgrounds, being private school-educated and a feeling of being bigger fish in our previous environments – we were brought back to earth at a football club.

As much as he hated it, Dylan’s name preceded him often. It’s a burden that father-son draftees bear from the moment they are torn from their mother’s breast.

But while there was a perception to the contrary, arrogant is not a word I would associate with Dylan Buckley.

Having said that, the kid is nothing short of a social butterfly: you cannot go anywhere without him being recognised or him knowing the head honcho of whatever establishment we were frequenting.

Let me tell you, there are positives and negatives in hanging around with the 21-year-old version of Shane Warne. If you want VIP treatment, Dylan’s your man. If you want to get somewhere else quickly, not so much.

It led me to coining my personal nickname of ‘Hollywood Bucks’ – or just ‘Hollywood’ for short.

For all the stick I give him, it’s a testament to the fact that family, friend or fan, Dylan will loyally give his time to anyone. Between his father Jim, mother Deb, sister Jess and his club mentor Kade Simpson, no trouble will be made ensuring Dylan’s head stays at its regular size.

I witnessed his genuine compassion first-hand when I tore my hamstring to shreds in my last game of footy, 22 months ago. I was playing VFL reserves, a curtain raiser to Dylan’s game and remember hobbling off the ground and into the rooms where the VFL seniors were warming up.

Doing my best to contain my tears knowing that footy had passed me by, Dylan tore himself away from the middle of the warm-up to put his arm around me for thirty seconds, tell me things could be worse, ruffle my hair and then continue with the team.

It was a massive gesture from him when all anyone else could do was feel sorry for me.

In Round 3, 2013, I was privileged to watch one of my genuine mates fulfil his boyhood dream, relinquish himself from his father’s name and debut for the Carlton Football Club.

I had no expectations for him. Carlton supporters need to understand that he is still under-sized for senior football and won’t burst on the scene like football’s next big thing.

He became the 1125th footballer to kick a goal with his first kick on AFL debut – I certainly don’t wish this upon Dylan, but the reality is this: there are a large percentage of them who’ve amounted to very little.

As Mick Malthouse said upon presenting Dylan with his ‘player pin’ before Round 3 against Geelong: “He needed stamina: he spends the most time in the altitude room. He needed size: his gym numbers are through the roof.”

He proves himself day by day and is laying the foundation for a very promising career. And that’s why I encourage everyone to watch his career as just a great life story.

I’m happy to have a civilised conversation with anyone who didn’t have him in his or her top three Carlton players on the ground. Yet I’m well aware that last night was as much another step forward, as it was Dylan’s second AFL match.

After just the one match in 2013, he went back to the Northern Blues and was consistently in the best players. The same went for when he played for the club’s VFL affiliate throughout the 2014 pre-season.

Funny what happens when you reward form in the reserves.

Almost 12 months on from that spiel upon presenting Dylan’s pin, Mick, in a post-match press conference, couldn’t have described my feeling for Dylan any better: “I was delighted for Dylan Buckley. He is a diligent young man who deserves every mention.”

Dylan: a skinny kid who grew up at the club he wanted to play for. Now he’s playing for the club he wanted to play for.

In a time of ASADA, an overpaid space cadet who causes headlines by frolicking on Bondi Beach with candidly dressed women instead of kicking goals, and Tania Hird, it’s good to know there are still some pure football stories to be told.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Hey it’s your cousin Jesse, one day your name will be on those lockers and I will be wearing your uniform and be like you and it will be happening love ya Xoxoxo

  2. Matthew I’m also a young journo. I’m an intern with AFL Queensland. I like your structure and flow, would have liked to see a quote or two from Dylan but it was still a good read. Keep up the good work!
    I’ve been calling for Bucks to play. The energy and enthusiasm, combined with his attack at the ball is exactly what we need in a time when we are lacking on field leadership, work rate and intensity. Loved his game and think Bucks shows tremendous heart. It’s what this club needs and ever since watching him at te NAB under 18’s carnival, I knew he was the man. Look forward to the next decade in navy blue.

  3. Mathew THANKYOU you write so well
    Your article is great as was the one you
    Wrote on Ricky ponting
    Keep up the great work

  4. Matthew …. Thank you so much for a wonderful insight not only to Dylan but in turn yourself …. Personally I had Dylan as 2nd best on Thursday – was in awe of a young man starting out – took his opportunity and showed us all this is no normal father son recruit- this kid will be a player very much in his own right – lovely to see a different side to our boys!!!! Congratulations on a great article – you may have found your calling!!!!!!!

  5. Great article. Most people don’t know about the head injury he suffered as a schoolboy either. Most would have given the game away after that. He’s come a long, long way. Delighted for him last night although I’m sure he would have preferred the win.

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