We could become quite familiar with Essendon’s Darcy Parish throughout the 2016 season, if early indications and remarkable circumstances are any guide.
Pick No.5 in the 2015 National Draft shapes as a potential midfield mainstay for the Bombers, following the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s recent ruling that 34 past and present Bombers were guilty of committing an anti-doping violation.
“I’ve sort of been matching it with the boys at Essendon so far and hopefully earned a fair bit of respect”- Darcy Parish
With 12 current Essendon players suspended for the 2016 season, there are an unprecedented number of spots up for grabs in the senior line-up.
But to suggest vacancies on the team sheet is the only reason the recruit may accumulate regular games may be an injustice to his immense talent and the big impression he’s made in a short time at Windy Hill.
Prior to the CAS findings, veteran Adam Cooney publicly stated his belief that Parish will feature sooner rather than later, comparing his pre-season impact to a former Western Bulldogs teammate.
“As soon as Marcus Bontempelli walked through the door, you knew he was going to make an impact straight away,” Cooney said on Sports Today.
“It was a bit like that with Darcy Parish. When he’s got the footy in his hands, he really uses it well. I think we’ll see him pretty early on.”
The Brownlow Medallist’s glowing appraisal is flattering, but the 18-year-old is staying grounded.
“I haven’t looked too far ahead, to be honest,” Parish told aflplayers.com.au at the AFLPA Induction Camp, one day before the CAS verdict was handed down.
“Train hard, learn as much as I can and earn the respect off all the boys I guess is the main goal for me at the moment.
“Hopefully yeah, throughout the year (I’ll debut). To get a game would be unbelievable. I’ll just see what happens.”
Several parallels can be drawn between Parish and another top selection from a decade ago.
Collingwood used the second overall pick in the 2005 National Draft on an exciting midfield prospect. Like Parish, he entered the system as a charismatic country lad with outstanding skills, pace and football IQ.
His name was Dale Thomas.
Even Parish’s mannerisms are akin to a young Thomas, not to mention the bright blonde locks. They also share physical similarities at the same age, most notably lighter body types.
Parish is 181cm and 74kg, while Thomas was listed as 183cm and 76kg for his first season in 2006. ‘Daisy’ went on to play the first nine matches and 16 in total during his debut year.
Such indications bode well for Parish’s ambitions, particularly in the short-term. He recognises his body will benefit from extra bulk in due course, but insists he’s happy fighting out of his weight division.
“When he’s got the footy in his hands, he really uses it well. I think we’ll see him pretty early on” – Adam Cooney
“It would be handy to be a little bit bigger than what I am at the moment… chuck on a few more kgs.
“But I’ve sort of been matching it with the boys at Essendon so far and hopefully earned a fair bit of respect off them by that as well.”
Renowned as a super competitive ball-magnet with quality distribution on both sides of the body, Parish makes the most of those gifts through great vision and composure.
The Geelong Falcons product thrived in a more consistent midfield role last season, after half-back had become his primary niche in 2014. Parish knows adding extra strings to his bow is important, but if it were up to him one position would be preferred.
“I probably see myself more in the midfield, love running around and playing my role for the team. Playing down half-back was something different for me and I learned a lot from it.”
New Essendon coach John Worsfold will obviously have a major bearing on selection matters, a fact that sits comfortably with Parish.
The 18-year-old clearly has a healthy level of admiration for the experienced mentor, flagging a special draft-night dinner with Worsfold and his fellow Dons’ draftees.
“The way he spoke at the dinner was unbelievable,” Parish said in The West Australian. Asked to expand on the reference, he praised the coach’s ability to communicate.
“The way he conducted himself under pressure [was impressive]. He got put on the spot, but spoke really well.
“I’ve learned heaps off him so far with all the new structures and attitudes he’s brought into the club. It’s been awesome.
“He loves to have a joke around as well. He’s a great person, so I really look forward to the future.”
You can follow Darcy Parish on Instagram @Darcy_Parish