ESSENDON youngster Darcy Parish has revealed he still speaks to banned Bombers Jobe Watson and Dyson Heppell on a regular basis in a bid to continue his steady rate of development.
Parish, pick No.5 in last year's draft, drew on all of Watson and Heppell's advice to star in the Bombers' upset 13-point win over Essendon, claiming the round two nomination for the NAB AFL Rising Star award for his efforts.
Under the terms of their season-long doping ban, Watson and Heppell are not able to play a role on match day but that does not preclude them from meeting with teammates in a social setting.
"I've been able to catch up with the boys a fair bit lately, so it's been awesome to stay in contact with them," Parish told AFL.com.au.
"They've been a great for tips and advice after games.
"They're only a phone call away if I've got any questions."
Parish worked closely with Watson and Heppell on his stoppage craft upon his arrival at Tullamarine late last year and he said it was "disappointing" to lose the 12 Bomber players to suspension.
However, the pair would have been proud of the 18-year-old's ability to gut-run and his clean hands in traffic in the Bombers' memorable victory at the MCG.
Parish finished with 21 disposals, 13 handball receives, eight tackles, five inside 50s and the match-sealing goal with three minutes remaining in the contest, typifying the young Bomber team's determination.
That he was trusted by senior Bomber David Zaharakis to seize the moment held special significance for Parish.
"David Zaharakis is known for finishing off those goals late in quarters and games," Parish said.
"He probably could've kicked it himself, but it was nice of him to give the handball back inside and it was great to finish that one off.
"It was an unbelievable feeling and one I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Although Parish cannot go toe-to-toe with Watson and Heppell at training, he said the influence of Ryan Crowley, James Kelly, Jonathan Simpkin, and the other top-up Bombers, had been equally as valuable.
"It was disappointing to lose the experience like we did with 'Hepps' and Jobe because I was learning so much off them in the short period I had with them," Parish said.
"But then to get the likes of Kelly, 'Crowls', Simpkin; they've been in the game for so long, so it's been awesome to learn off them."
Parish hopes the unlikely win against the Demons is something his side can build on throughout the 2016 season.
"We're starting to jell together as a group. We haven't been together as a group for all that long, but we're starting to see improvements and positives within the team, and that's exciting," Parish said.
Parish, a product of the Winchelsea Juniors, joins fellow top draft pick Clayton Oliver (selection No.4) as the players to be nominated for the prestigious award in 2016.