DARCY Parish has finally been unleashed in the midfield, and his teammates are loving it.
The silky 23-year-old arrived at the Bombers via pick No.5 in the 2015 NAB AFL Draft with the tag as one of the best midfielders available, but spent considerable time up forward in his early career.
A knee injury to Dylan Shiel – and a change in coach in Ben Rutten – has opened the door for the highly rated youngster to make his mark in the engine room.
Parish's numbers have risen as a consequence, averaging 26.7 disposals and 6.6 clearances, up from 19.2 and 4.2 (albeit with shortened games in 2020).
Andrew McGrath – who as a former No.1 pick knows just how difficult it can be to carry the weight of expectation – is thrilled to now be lining up at centre bounces alongside Parish.
"Darce is great. He's probably been held out a little bit in the past few years, just based on opportunity and his development," McGrath said.
"He's played a bit of half-forward, but he's been given that role now that Jye Caldwell (hamstring) and Dylan Shiel have had a little bit of time off with injury.
"He's taken it with both hands and his ferocious attack on the ball, his cleanliness around the contest is really his trademark, and he showed that on Anzac Day (with a best-afield medal) why he can be one of the best midfielders in the comp.
"He's one of my best mates, I'm so proud of him and how he's developed in the last couple of years, and can't wait to see what he does moving forward."
McGrath was speaking alongside St Kilda key forward Max King and AFL head of customer and commercial Kylie Rogers, who announced the AFL had passed the one million club member mark.
King will take on twin brother Ben (and Gold Coast) on Saturday at Metricon Stadium.
"We talk every week, so this week won't be very different. I'm one-nil in our games at the moment, so I've been reminding him of that a little bit, but it's always a good opportunity, playing against each other," King said.
"Growing up with a twin brother, you're always pushing each other, especially when you have the same goal of making it to the AFL. You want to help each other and see each other do better, and that's no different now we're at different clubs.
"I try and watch all his games I can. It can be hard when they're at similar times and you can only catch a half, but Gold Coast are pretty much my second team. I love watching Ben play and it's great seeing him do well."
The AFL also announced Victorian club members will be able to return to their reserved seats from this weekend, with Marvel Stadium, GMHBA Stadium and Mars Stadium also increasing their capacity to 85 per cent.
THANKS A MILLION Club membership tops 1m, reserved seats back in Vic
The MCG is already able to sell tickets up to 85 per cent capacity.
"[We have] confidence we have been able to capture all the data of all individual guests who attend, and we're working with Ticketek and Ticketmaster to be able to do that," Rogers said.
"The majority of our fans are QR-scanning, and we've been able to reach the capacity that they're now comfortable in opening up.
"Of course, we're very optimistic that we'll be able to get to 100 per cent at some point, but steady as she goes, and we're playing the long game."