TWO HOURS before the biggest game of his life, Nick Daicos was in the Collingwood changerooms at the MCG scrolling YouTube. The Magpies superstar, in his second game back from his knee injury, was getting his preparation sorted by the Pies support staff when he was searching for some inspiration.
Daicos often prepares for his big games by watching old ones – Grand Finals from the past, games his Magpies have played in, highlights packages of the greats. It has been part of his story since he used to watch games with his famous father Peter, when he'd pause and rewind live games to flick through pieces of play as a kid.
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But on Grand Final day, the 20-year-old had a four-time Hawthorn premiership star and Norm Smith medallist on his list.
"It was some Cyril Rioli highlights this morning. I play far from Cyril, he's an absolute superstar but I love what he used to do on the big stage so I tried to take anything from what he did, whether it was pressure or whatever. He got me up and about," Daicos told AFL.com.au.
"I was on YouTube two hours before the game. I was getting treatment in here watching some Cyril highlights."
Daicos kicked the first goal of Collingwood's epic, thrilling four-point Grand Final win over Brisbane after starting forward but went on to dazzle in his own way.
He had a game-high 29 disposals and some huge moments throughout a see-sawing game that will go down as one of the all-time great premiership deciders.
One of those came deep in the last quarter, when Daicos handballed over his shoulder to teammate Jordan De Goey, whose long bomb clinched back the lead for Collingwood. That had come after Daicos had missed a tackle on Jarrod Berry, who set up Charlie Cameron's goal that had put Brisbane ahead.
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Daicos said after that, the Magpies knew how they had to turn it around.
"We need to score. We went into what we call 'attack mode'. Charlie actually kicked that goal because I missed a tackle so I was pretty filthy on myself going back to that centre bounce. My head was racing. I thought 'How can I influence this next play?' and then Jordy kicks an absolute ripper," he said.
"I think that's up there [with my favourite ever handballs]. When he kicked that goal I've never heard anything like that roar.
"We knew Brisbane were going to keep coming, they're an unbelievable team. (Joe) Daniher goes back and kicks that quick goal and it's like 'S**t, this game is back on'. Our boys were unbelievable at possessing the ball late and staying calm in a Grand Final. We practise those moments and it shone through."
After the Grand Final celebrations had died down and the MCG crowd disappeared, the Magpies squad gathered back on the field in the middle of the ground, where Daicos and De Goey recreated the over-the-head handball and then goal.
Daicos' Grand Final delight caps an extraordinary first two years in the AFL for the Collingwood prodigy, who is arguably the game's best player with just 47 games to his name. Alongside his older brother Josh, the pair joined their famous father Peter as Collingwood premiership players, matching his feats of 1990.
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"I'm speechless. These are the moments, this is why I play footy, this is why I work hard in the pre-season to share this with my teammates and it's exceeded expectations. No words describe running around the MCG with a premiership medal and the crowd going crazy. I'm lost for words," he said.
Daicos' shot at a flag looked in jeopardy when he suffered a fracture of his knee in early August. It was an absence that ultimately cost him the Brownlow Medal, having finished with 29 votes despite missing the final three games of the year, but he returned for the Pies' preliminary final win over Greater Western Sydney and then shared the flag with Josh, with the pair backing up their All-Australian honours this year.
"It's so special. There were times where we didn't know which way his career was heading and he had to work a little bit harder and he did that and he's reaped the rewards and he's a premiership player too," he said.
AFL.com.au tracked Daicos through his draft season in 2021 in Going Places on his journey to being a Collingwood father-son pick that year. He was ambitious, ultra-driven and as competitive as can be, with his goal of "three or four" premierships detailed before he had joined Collingwood. He knows he has more to go.
"This is everything I've ever wanted. Back in my draft year when we did that little doco together I think I mentioned how many times I've dreamt of this day and now I'm a premiership player and we're a premiership team," he said.
"Nothing's changed. There's no complacency. It's an addictive feeling and I'm sure I'll let this sink in for a long time and it will be very special to me but when we get back to pre-season we'll be aiming to do it again."