THE FIRST thing you notice about Darcy Wilmot is the dash.
The all-action 183cm Northern Knights defender has the type of flair, speed and skill in possession that has easily captured the attention of AFL recruiters. But it's the 'other' stuff that has elevated Wilmot into the upper echelons of this year's NAB AFL Draft crop.
Wilmot has the run and carry, in addition to the penetration and precision by foot, that makes him such an attractive prospect. He then complements that excitement with a toughness and a willingness to defend that is not often associated with those as creative as him off half-back.
"It's my main priority," Wilmot told AFL.com.au.
"You have to defend first, then attack. You can't attack if you don't have the ball. The defensive side of my game has always been the first thing on my mind, so for me it's always been defence-first."
That aspect of Wilmot's game has been exemplified by the fact he was ranked in the top 10 by Champion Data for intercept possessions (6.1 per game) and spoils (2.3 per game) in this year's NAB League season.
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Just as capable of locking down on an opponent as he is playing loose, the balance to Wilmot's game has recruiters of the belief that he has solidified his position as a top-20 pick at this month's national draft.
A host of clubs in the mid-to-latter stages of the draft's first round have Wilmot in their sights. Such a standing doesn't necessarily come as a surprise to the young Knights prospect, though it might to a few others who have tracked his progress.
"On a personal level, I had a lot to prove coming into this year," Wilmot said.
"I'd never really been noticed a lot, so it was almost like a breakout year and I wanted to get my name up and about. I just wanted to come out and show what I can do, just to show who I am.
"You don't really think about stuff like, 'oh I can be top 20'. But I knew that if I tried really hard and played really well with the team, I could definitely have my name called out at the end of the year."
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Wilmot's season, like most Victorian draft hopefuls, has been heavily impacted by the "pain in the arse" interruptions caused by a series of COVID-19 lockdowns across the state. But he's found a way of improving without being on the field.
A mad Collingwood fan, he has analysed Jack Crisp's game from TV throughout the season and sees similarities in how the pair can combine their attacking threat with their defensive intensity.
"I love the way he's got his 50-50 defending and attacking balance," Wilmot said.
Wilmot's love of footy and his love of Collingwood was inspired by his late father Grant, who passed away in 2016. A five-game player for the Magpies in their Grand Final season in 1980, he has provided an inspiration throughout the youngster's junior career.
"He was always happy in whatever I wanted to do," Wilmot said.
"Obviously, I chose football and he was happy for that. He would've been rapt and so proud of me. He would've loved to have seen me on an AFL list."
Now, the prospect of following in his father's footsteps is edging closer on the horizon.
"It would be huge," Wilmot said.
"It's every kid's dream to get drafted and to play football and to do what you love to do every day. But, also on a personal level, it would be huge for my family and friends. What I've gone through, to become where I am now, it would just be amazing."