Carlton’s loss to Richmond last Thursday would be one most Blues supporters would happily forget, were it not for the arrival of 21-year-old Dylan Buckley. Buckley was named the Round 2 nominee for the Rising Star this week, following his impressive 18-possession performance.
Speaking at the Don Chipp Lecture Theatre at Visy Park today, Buckley said it was “a huge honour” to receive the nomination.
“I’ve put on about eight or nine kilos since I first got to the club” – Dylan Buckley
After being selected with the 62nd pick in the 2011 National Draft, via the father-son rule, Buckley initially faced a number of challenges to get his body to AFL standard.
“I had to put in a bit of work [to get my body right],” Buckley admitted.
“I came to the club pretty light, so I put on about eight or nine kilos since I first got to the club. Obviously I had a few shoulder injuries as well, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to put on size. Those setbacks didn’t help me in that regard but I found over the off-season, that’s mainly what I focused on – just getting my shoulders right. I knew from then if I could get those right that I could play some consistent footy and push for senior selection.”
He fell just short of being selected for Carlton’s Round 1 match against Port Adelaide, but after last week’s performance he looks a certainty to hold his spot for the foreseeable future. His dash off half-back and clean ball-use gave the Blues a spark that helped them get back in the game on Thursday. It’s not surprising to hear which teammates have influenced him most.
“My mentors at the club are Kade Simpson, Chris Yarran and Heath Scotland – all fantastic backline players,” Buckley said after Thursday’s match.
“I’m really learning from the best. I’d never played back-line before this year, so when Mick gave me the tap on the shoulder at the end of last year and said ‘I want to try you in the back pocket’ I wasn’t too sure how I’d go. But I love it, and it’s given me a bit of excitement and sets me a good target for the game.”
As for his next game, Buckley has a pretty simple goal in mind – based on some advice from his father Jim, who won three premierships with Carlton in a career that spanned from 1976 to 1990.
Buckley: "Dad says to make sure that I get a kick this week. It's no use playing well for just one game."
— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) April 1, 2014
Though he’s slightly older than many Rising Star nominees, he still has a sprightly outlook on the game. After Thursday night’s match he admitted there were occasions when he was able to stop and take it all in, realising he was living out his childhood dream.
“As soon as you run out there you sort of forget about it, and it sort of feels like another game of footy,” Buckley said with a smile.
“But there are those breaks in the game where you sit back and think, ‘jeez, what am I doing!?'”
His youthful exuberance might be just the thing Carlton needs to help jump-start its season.
Dylan Buckley is eligible for selection in this year’s 22under22 team. Will he make the side? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.