BRISBANE defender Darcy Wilmot is a player whose personality comes through in the way he plays football. As a "highly energetic and infectious" 19-year-old, it makes for an impactful style of play that has helped change the Lions this year.
After making his debut in an elimination final last year, Wilmot's speed and attacking mindset have been valuable traits in Brisbane's backline and the second-year Lion shapes as a key player in Saturday's Grand Final at the MCG.
His ability to step up and use his assets to be a "game-changer" is a valuable football trait for a player so young, but it's one that has its roots in Wilmot's personal make-up and the close relationship he shared with his late father Grant.
"He'll talk about the Wilmot way, which was something his dad drove. That was essentially for the Wilmots, if required, to be game-changers and have impact," Brisbane development coach Scott Borlace, who has worked closely with Wilmot since his arrival, told AFL.com.au.
"He has so much energy and likes to take it upon himself to be a game-changer when the situation requires it. That's his personality to a tee.
"He likes to take things on, and being bold is certainly part of his make-up and it's pretty natural for him.
"His dad was a big influence on him, and that's why Darcy wears the No.44 because that's what his Dad wore."
Grant Wilmot, who died of a heart attack in 2016, played five games for coach Tom Hafey's Collingwood in 1980 and was a teammate of Peter Daicos and Peter Moore, whose sons will line up against Wilmot on Saturday.
He represented Preston in the VFA and was a star in the Diamond Valley Football League and a revered figure who won premierships as a player with Montmorency and Eltham, later coaching both clubs and Heidelberg.
Many at the Lions got their first impressions of Wilmot from his interview on draft night in 2021 when he was recruited with pick No.16 and declared he would be celebrating with "a few more Pepsi Max".
Pepsi still deliver the odd slab of soft drink for the defender, while the Lions are glad they got the high-energy youngster they were expecting.
"Looking at that interview, we knew we were going to get a bloke who was enthusiastic and passionate about his footy, and that's what we got when he came through the door," Borlace said.
"In terms of football, he showed all the attributes early on that he was going to be a really good AFL player, so he was well and truly advanced in terms of football maturity.
"Then there were elements where he was still learning what was required to play AFL but also maturing in life and learning a bit about himself."
Part of the process new players go through at the Lions is sharing their "timeline" and talking through their personal story and background to help players and coaches build relationships based on understanding.
The process meant Brisbane's coaches knew Wilmot incredibly well when it came to debating whether he was ready to make his debut in an elimination final against Richmond at the Gabba last September.
"There were discussions around him debuting in such a big game, but the discussions were all positive that he would take it all in his stride and not be overawed by the occasion," Borlace said.
"He doesn't overthink those sorts of things and it turns out he went in and played his role and kicked his first goal in that game, contributing to a good win.
"It vindicated our decision that he wouldn't be overawed by the occasion and he would thrive on the big stage, and we backed him in for all of those finals we played."
Playing in three finals was more valuable than anything the Lions' coaches could have taught Wilmot, Borlace said, and the experience inspired the teenager to come back from his off-season fitter and stronger.
It meant he was physically prepared to play every game in his second season, including two more finals, ahead of Saturday's decider.
His progress this year can also be put down to countless hours spent in 'the cage', which is an indoor section of Brisbane's facility used for touch work. He was in there during this interview as Borlace walked past, completing competitive work with teammates, including Lachie Neale and Zac Bailey.
"They're playing a groundball game right now that is a points competition. He likes to do anything in there that is competitive and he likes to beat other players in those games, which he generally does," Borlace said.
"He doesn't like anything that's boring, he likes things that challenge and encourage him to get better and improve. He does some things in the touch room and in games that I'm in awe of sometimes."
Given his evolution this season, the Lions will hope Wilmot can both stop his opponent on Saturday and provide rebound and drive from the backline with his speed and kicking skills.
The fact that they can rely on a 19-year-old to fill that role, and the important contribution Wilmot has made to the team's improvement this year, highlights the value of nailing a draft pick and bringing that player up to a high level quickly.
"To think that he was going to be playing every game in his second year was maybe unexpected, but guys like Darcy and his improvement through the year have certainly made us better as a team," Borlace said.
"It's been a bonus that he's come along so quick as a 19-year-old, but it has certainly been a contributing factor in us going to the next level this year and playing in a Grand Final."